Wonder why you can’t shake that nagging cough and cold? Your cell phone may be to blame. Senior biology major Wendy Lambert looked into the possibility in her research, “Pathogenic Bacteria on Cell Phones,” which she presented Tuesday as part of the 18th annual Minds at Work Student Research Conference on campus.
Representing nearly every academic discipline on campus, about 90 Heidelberg students and peers from the University of Findlay and Bluffton University presented their research, conducted over the past academic year. Classes were suspended so the campus community could attend the presentations and listen to keynote speaker Dr. Mike F. Keen, professor of sociology and founding director of the Center for a Sustainable Future at Indiana University South Bend.
Keen, author of “Stalking the Sociological Imagination: FBI Surveillance of American Sociology,” discussed the findings of his research into the FBI’s investigation of American sociologists as well as chronicled the details, ups and downs of the research itself as he pursued this overlooked chapter in the history of American sociology.
So what were Lambert’s findings about those potentially uncleanly cell phones? In her small sample of 10 health care workers – five in a dental facility and five surgical workers – and an equally sized control group, 90 percent of the health care workers and 70 percent of the controls had evidence of E. coli bacteria on their cell phones.
“For us, we handle our cell phones every day, but our immune systems are not necessarily compromised,” she said. “E. coli is mainly found in elderly and young children, so to have found this high percentage in health care settings, was surprising, especially with sterilization techniques.”
“We just don’t think of our cell phones as a potential source of infection,” she said.
As she began her research for her capstone biology project, Lambert predicted – based on other international studies – that her outcome would be just the opposite. Her recommendations are for a larger scale study on the topic and research into ways to sterilize cell phones without damaging them.
Senior Katie Pierce, a public relations and communication & theatre arts double major, was looking for something less scientific when she decided to examine the Old Spice advertising campaign for her research project, “Targeting the Generation You Wish Your Generation Could Be.”
Pierce evaluated the company’s “Smell Like a Man, Man” campaign that featured the handsome Isaiah Mustafa to find out why it was so successful. “I wanted to see who it was targeting and how they were being targeted … essentially, what made the campaign so attractive to people,” she explained.
She based her analysis on eight generational norms spelled out in Don Tapscott’s book, “Grown Up Digital,” identifying where each were effectively utilized in the Old Spice commercials.
The commercial commanded millions of YouTube views, online and awards buzz, and popularity, Pierce believed, because of its customization and speed of delivery, two of Tapscott’s norms. The key, she said, was “letting the consumer choose not just the product but how you interact with the campaign as a whole.” Social media contributed in huge ways to the campaign’s success, she said.
Sophomore Gabby Mintz, a biology major, delivered two presentations during the conference based on pieces she researched and developed for Speech Team tournaments. The first, “HeLa Cells: The Eternal Gift,” looks at the contributions of Henrietta Lacks, a poor African American woman diagnosed with a severe form of cervical cancer in the early 1950s.
Some of Lacks’ cells were cultured and made into the first “immortal cell,” one that could exist outside the body for an indefinite amount of time if grown in the proper culture. “Over 150 million metric tons (of Lacks’ cells) have been replicated and sold to medical supply companies,” Mintz said. “All of them are derived from those taken from her in 1951.”
The science revolutionized medical research in the areas of cancer, genetics, in vitro fertilization, stem cell isolation, gene mapping, blood type identification, HIV and other diseases.
Mintz’ second presentation, “Stand Up for the Silenced,” focused on elder abuse, its definition, signs of common abuse and stories to illustrate its devastating effects. After reading an article about a group of nurses at a facility in Findlay who allegedly overlooked a condition that led to a patient’s serious illness, Mintz wanted to learn more so she could help raise awareness. Her research revealed that 70-80 percent of elder abuse cases come at the hands of family members or spouses.
The number of cases, she argued, is growing proportionately with the number of aging Baby Boomers. In her persuasive speech, she sought to get people to take action on personal, local and national levels. Caregivers, she said, are often overwhelmed, so one possible solution would be to arrange for respite assistance for them.