Governor's School seniors give glimpse into research, results

May 18, 2011

By ASHLEY JACKSON - Bulletin Staff Writer

What has been the impact of the nation’s drug policies? Does money equal happiness? What are people’s perceptions of those who wear glasses?

Those were among the research topics explored this year by seniors in the Piedmont Governor’s School for Mathematics, Science and Technology. The 28 students in the program presented their research last week at the Rives Theatre in Martinsville.

Each student was able to pick his or her own topic, said Nina Huff, research instructor at the Piedmont Governor’s School, held in Martinsville and serving students in the surrounding area.

The students presented their topics in 15-minute PowerPoint presentations that were evaluated by members of the community, including teachers and principals. The students were evaluated on their oral presentations, the strength of their research and the preparation of their research, Huff said.

John Reagan of Patrick County High School examined the war on drugs and its effects on drug use, arrest rates, prison populations and minorities.

“In 2002, we spent $18 billion on drug enforcement so I was curious if our policies are the most effective way to handle the drug problem,” he said.

He gathered statistics from the Bureau of Justice. He charted the number of drug arrests during a certain number of years and analyzed the numbers to see if they led to a decrease in the number of people using drugs, he said.

John found that incarcerations put a stigma on released inmates and they then are disqualified from subsidized housing and food stamps. That makes it hard for them to survive after being released from prison, he said.

He explained that many inmates do not receive technical training while in prison so they cannot find jobs afterward, which could lead to more drug use.

He concluded that as the number of arrests increased, the number of drug users increased. “It’s interesting that they (the data) share a relationship like that,” John said.

Daniel Warren’s topic was “the correlation between subjective well-being and financial situations,” he said. He tested to see if more money leads to more happiness.

He performed a survey using a life satisfaction scale and a scale of positive and negative emotions.

Daniel said he had to incorporate both scales in collecting his data to get an accurate estimate of a person’s subjective well-being or happiness. He also looked into demographics, he said, and found that white people surveyed had a higher average of life satisfaction than black people who were involved in the research.

Daniel said he concluded that money does not equal happiness.

Chanhong Luu of Martinsville High School did her research on people’s perceptions of those who wear eyeglasses as well as the effects of eyeglasses and contact lenses on self-esteem. She chose the topic because she wears glasses and wanted to see how wearing contacts would have affected her life.

Luu conducted surveys with seventh-, ninth- and 11th-graders. One survey focused on demographics and people’s views on eyeglasses versus contacts. The second survey asked participants to choose the picture that they found most appealing. One picture showed someone wearing glasses while the other picture did not.

She concluded that as age increases, people have more favorable views toward glasses. She also concluded that the more a person wears eyeglasses, the better the person’s attitude.

“(Research) is a very complicated process, but it’s enriching and I can use these skills in the future in college,” she said.


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