Several University of Wisconsin-Baraboo/Sauk County student research projects could be featured in the UW System’s annual Research in the Rotunda event next spring, according to program leaders.
Last year, the university sent nine students representing six teams of UW-Baraboo researchers to the state Capitol — a UW Colleges record. Every April, exceptional student researchers from across the UW System, along with their faculty advisers, fill the Capitol Rotunda to share their findings on a variety of topics with legislators, state leaders, UW alumni and other supporters.
After hearing students present their research from the current semester during Tuesday night’s Honors Symposium, UW-Baraboo mathematics professor Kirthi Premadasa said he has high expectations for this year as well.
“All of these of these projects reflect the Wisconsin Idea,” he said. “They provide research that can be taken and used in the community.”
During the Honors Symposium, students gave presentations on a variety of research topics that ranged from examining how the content of dairy cow feed impacts the quantity and quality of milk production to a sociological study of prominent fears in modern Americans.
The students chose their topics earlier in the semester and worked alongside a professor who acted as a mentor throughout the process.
UW-Baraboo student Lane KoBel teamed up with biology professor David Olsen to examine genetic differences among prairie plants in local ecosystems. KoBel said the research could be used to guide conservationists’ restoration efforts in the remnants of the Sauk Prairie.
“We’re hoping that is research is going to help in future conservation efforts in the area,” he said. “If we can identify places that have a high genetic diversity, then we can target those locations because they have a good chance of being restored to their natural prairie state.”
KoBel said his interest in genetics, along with his professor’s background in the field, led him to pursue a research project that examined the biodiversity of native prairie ecosystems. While the process of extracting and comparing DNA from prairie plants was difficult and required several changes in protocol, KoBel said he gained valuable experience in using scientific equipment.
“That’s going to help me with my future research that involves genetics,” he said. “Just getting started with using all the equipment, I’ll be a lot better off when I get to use it next time.”
After studying at UW-Baraboo, KoBel plans to pursue a psychobiology degree from Ripon College. After that, he said he also plans to attain a marine biology degree, along with a degree in bioengineering. KoBel said he would recommend UW-Baraboo’s undergraduate degree to any student who is willing to put in the work.
“It’s one of the best programs here at Baraboo,” he said. “A lot of people think they can’t do it or that it’s not available or too hard, but honestly the professors are a big help.
“They’ll help you through it, you learn so much and you get good credit for it.”