Research course helps undergraduate students hone professional skills

Undergraduate research is more than just a component of coursework required for graduation. It has become a defining characteristic of Trevecca academics, and this semester is no different. 

Senior exercise science students recently had the opportunity to participate in a new class curated around research. Dr. Aaron Hall, the lead professor of the class, said that the program aims to prepare students for graduate school and beyond.

“We created this class to be the second half of their Senior Seminar class. [The] majority of our students are on a graduate school tract that will require them to complete research studies through their master’s and doctoral degrees,” he said. “We saw a need for our students to participate in undergraduate research studies to equip them with the necessary skills that they will use in graduate school.” 

Hall’s research class began in the fall semester, continues through the spring semester and will end with a capstone presentation at the Trevecca Undergraduate Symposium. Scheduled for April 21, the symposium is now expected to take place in a virtual format.

Trevecca senior Jenna Bivens is thankful for the opportunity the class has given her to put everything she’s learned over the course of her Trevecca career into practice. 

“My group is researching if intrinsic muscle strengthening can impact arch height,” she said. “The experience has been difficult but rewarding so far. This research project has definitely pushed me and my peers to think creatively and synthesize much of what we have learned these last four years.”

The class challenges students to move beyond learning about research to doing it, Hall says. The curriculum gives students the opportunity to develop their own hypothesis, complete a review of current literature around their proposed topic of research, establish an appropriate research method and complete the Institutional Review Board approval process. The goal, Hall says, is to have the study fully prepared and approved by the IRB by the end of the fall semester. 

Early in the spring semester, Hall’s students completed their initial measurements, then started the eight-week research study. During this time, students like Bivens take initial, mid-study and final measurements from their study participants, perform statistical analysis of their data and prepare a research paper and presentation that outlines their findings. 

According to Micah Smart, another student in the class, one of the best parts of the class is getting to experience realistic challenges she and her classmates may face in the future.

“I've read a lot of research articles in the past, so it's been interesting to experience a little bit of what a researcher goes through, with handling data, working with study participants and crunching numbers,” said Smith, who is researching the effects of meditation on sleep quality. “Working with the participants has been an exercise in psychology, figuring out what would make it most likely for them to be consistent with their meditation practice and to turn in their data each week.”

Hall says it’s this real-life application that makes his students’ research experience so valuable.

“Throughout their professional career, each student will be required to constantly review current literature as it pertains to the health care field,” he said. “This class will educate them with the skills to continually maintain their clinical skills to match what the current literature states. [It will also give them the opportunity to complete a research study from beginning to end] … so they will be ready for completing one in graduate school.” 

by Moira Kurtz
Media contact: Mandy Crow,, 615-248-1695