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Cyborgs, Salamanders & Musical Glasses

A steady buzz of conversation fills the concourse at UNCA’s Sherrill Center. 

Credit WCQS
UNCA student presenters Logan Varker and Jack Raney describe how artist Neil Harbisson's "eyeborg" allows him to hear colors.

The scene is the standard long line of students in front of poster presentations during the Undergraduate Research and Community Engagement Symposium.  The conversation, however, is anything but standard.

“The purpose of this project is to show off  neuroscience in everyday life, and we figured, what better example than a genuine Cyborg,” says freshman presenter Logan Varker.  His research partner Jack Raney explained that this genuine Cyborg, is avant-garde artist Neil Harbisson, who chose to correct his colorblindness with a device called an Eyeborg.

“It’s a device that  has a photo-diode array that can read different wavelengths of light, transmits it into electronic signals that goes to an audio element that’s implanted into the back of his head, “ say Raney.

The implant translates color into tones.  “For him, red is a musical note,” says Raney.

“ His device can actually connect to the internet,”  explained Varkin, “and so he has a list of four people who can send him images directly to his Eyeborg and I think that is interesting because that expands our ability to connect around the globe.”

Hannah Henkin’s presentation is the science behind online study tips, came from personal experience.

“I was scrolling through Pinterest,” says Henkin, “This is my first semester, and so I was like, how do I get good grades. I was going through all these study tips and I was like, this sounds interesting.”

Credit WCQS
UNCA student presenter Hannah Henkin researched the science behind Student Online Study Tips.

                                                                           HC “Online study tips totally bogus?”                                                                                                                          

“Not all of them, but a lot of them  kind of were.”

Like the one that says the best time to study is at 4 a.m., but Henkin’s research did uncover a few keepers.

“If you have more oxygen in your blood you  have better more memory performance, they tested this by having people breathe different concentrations of oxygen.”

Meditation, says Henkin, lacked scientific support as a study tool says Henkin, but did have other brain benefits.

“It makes your brain appear (on  brain scans) if you’ve been doing it a long time, seven years younger, so it protects against brain atrophy, so that was cool. So I have a long list of things I have to do, I have to do my breathing exercises, I have to do meditation!”

Nature was the theme at the other end of the concourse.  Senior Robert Chambliss and his partner junior Shannon Bodeau have been studying the genetics and habitat of a salamander found in the high elevation forests of WNC and Virginia.

“This is rare species, a NC species of special concern.  It might be threatened, it might be endangered, there’s not actually enough data to establish that kind of data.”

Chambliss and Bodeau's research might help.  They focused in on habitat factors like soil PH, which can affect Salamander health.

“Even though little change in the climate, if we don’t pay really close attention to conserving these areas, we could extirpate and lead these species to extinction along with a lot of other tree species salamanders that only exist in these special high elevations spruce fir forests,” says Chambliss.  

(students playing water glasses)

And the final poster experience, the sound of music, and science.

“The music theory club did a poster presentation on the intersection of music and science. Specifically tuned water glasses to create musical sounds,” says Assistant Professor of Music Christine Boone, who explained that the club tapped the physics department to figure out tuning formulas.    Music Major Elijah Brown loved the science behind the project

“This is really cool to me,” says Brown, “getting into the physics of why these glasses sound like they do and what makes each tone happen.”

Project Collaborator and Physics Professor Michael Ruiz, appreciated the music.

“A very beautiful piece that was performed with these glasses,”

Credit WCQS
UNCA Music Theory Club members Hazel Errett, Dillan Newcity and Elijah Brown demonstrate the process of tuning water glasses to specific pitches.

A beautiful mix of music and science that was performed on stage with a choir definitely not your standard student poster presentation.  For WCQS news, I’m Helen Chickering

The piece featured at the end is Music "Stars" by Ēriks Ešenvalds performed by

University of North Carolina Asheville Singers and  Musical Water Glasses played by the University of North Carolina Asheville Music Theory Club  Under the direction of Dr. Melodie Galloway.  Clickhere for a list of all the presentations. 

Students and faculty discuss the science behind musical glasses, plus a bit of their performance!

Credit WCQS
Senior Ethan Wright discusses his research conducted during his summer internship at Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory.

UNCA Senior Ethan Wright explains his research looking at the impact of rhododendron removal on new tree growth, in the wake of Eastern Hemlock loss.

Credit WCQS
Aaliyah Belk and Elizabeth Krug present their work on mental illness portrayed in art.
UNCA student Aaliyah Belk and Elizabeth Krug present their research on Mental Illness Portrayed in Art.

Credit WCQS
Abril Ruiz-Lopez and Emily Crook presented sleep research.

Do we really need 8 hours of sleep? Hear what students Abril Ruiz-Lopez and Emily Crook learned from their research.

Credit WCQS
Michael Mealie and Edward Coclough present their research on chess and cognitive abilities.

Michael Mealie and Edward Coclough sought to answer the question, "Does playing chess improve cognitive abilities?"

Helen Chickering is a host and reporter on Blue Ridge Public Radio. She joined the station in November 2014.