Chancellor Blank honors students for outstanding research, community service

May 2, 2017

Ana Bormann has a hunch that the already long list of benefits of yoga could include one more — helping deaf adults avoid disastrous falls.

The UW–Madison junior and kinesiology major plans to test a group of deaf adults before and after they complete an 8-week yoga program adapted for them and targeted to address balance.

Bormann’s research project was one of many honored May 1 at the annual Chancellor’s Undergraduate Awards Ceremony. In total, the accomplishments of more than 150 students were highlighted at the event.

Many of the awards provide students with funds to conduct research projects independently or in collaboration with faculty. Other awards recognize impressive academic achievement or community service. Eleven recipients and finalists of nationally competitive scholarships also were acknowledged.

The winning research topics range from sanitation in archaic Greek households to evolutionary change in guppies to Muhammad Ali’s influence on hip-hop.

Bormann, of Bartlett, Illinois, won a Hilldale Undergraduate Research Fellowship to pursue her yoga-related project. Many individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing experience balance problems because the body’s hearing and balance systems are connected inside the inner ear, she said. These balance difficulties can affect many aspects of daily life, such as dressing, bathing and cooking, and lead to serious falls that compromise the person’s long-term health, she said.

“I want to determine if a community-based yoga class can improve balance,” Bormann said. “The results will provide necessary information for establishing future interventions to improve gait, balance and ultimately quality of life in the deaf and hard-of-hearing community.”

Senior Jack Shireman, a neurobiology major from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, also engages in innovative research. In his lab. He has tested intoxicated undergraduate students on how they react biologically and cognitively to various stressful situations.

“We know that one of the main reasons people choose to drink is for stress reduction,” he said. “Yet the effect of alcohol on the human stress response remains understudied and poorly understood.”

Shireman, who won a University Book Store Award for academic excellence, said he hopes to better understand why and under what circumstances alcohol contributes to reckless behaviors such as driving drunk, committing petty crimes, and injuring oneself due to intoxication.

“If we can better understand how alcohol interacts with stress, we could develop more targeted treatments for alcohol disorders,” he said. “That’s the ultimate goal for the real-life impact.”

Other awards include the Holstrom Environmental Scholarship, the Sophomore Research Fellowship, and the Herfurth and Kubly Award for Initiative and Efficiency.

A full list of award recipients can be found here.

In addition, 24 students have been selected to receive Meyerhoff Awards, which recognize a commitment to community service. That ceremony will take place Friday, May 5. The list of Meyerhoff winners is here.