Wheeling Jesuit University

Wheeling Jesuit Senior Participates in Research Competition

Phillip Zoladz, a Wheeling Jesuit University senior, is a finalist in the second annual West Virginia EPSCoR Undergraduate Research Program.

EPSCoR, the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, holds the competition each year to showcase the best undergraduate research in West Virginia. A panel of judges will choose the WV Undergraduate Researcher of the Year and a runner-up from approximately 10 finalists during the EPSCoR conference in Charleston.

Nominated by Bryan Raudenbush, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology, Zoladz was chosen as a finalist based on a research description he submitted to the judging panel.

“Being selected as a finalist for WV Researcher of the Year is particularly exciting because it affords me the opportunity to share my findings with others and reveal what the Jesuit education has to offer—that is, research that can help make the world a better place to live,” says the Belmont, Ohio, native.
“I am honored to have the opportunity to represent Wheeling Jesuit University at this competition.”
Zoladz will present his senior thesis, “Impact of the Chemical Senses on Augmenting Memory, Attention, Reaction Time, Problem Solving, and Response Variability: The Differential Role of Retronasal Versus Orthonasal Odorant Administration,” to the judging panel May 11.

Previous research has consistently noted a significant interplay between odors and human behavior, and past Wheeling Jesuit University studies have shown that the administration of particular odorants enhances athletic performance, mood, sleep, pain tolerance and cognition.

In his project, Zoladz sought to find a non-pharmacological adjunct to enhance cognitive processing in humans through examining the effects of odorants administered through the mouth, or retronasally, and through the nose, or orthonasally, on the cognitive performance of individuals.

During Phase I of his study, participants completed cognitive tasks on a computer-based program under five “chewing gum” conditions (no gum, flavorless gum, peppermint gum, cinnamon gum and cherry gum).

In Phase II, participants completed the same tasks under four odorant conditions (no odor, peppermint odor, jasmine odor and cinnamon odor).

Results revealed that cinnamon, whether administered both via the mouth and nose, improved participants’ scores on tasks related to attentional processes, virtual recognition memory, working memory and visual-motor response speed.

Implications of Zoladz’s study are most promising in providing a non-pharmacological adjunct to enhance cognition in the elderly, individuals with test-anxiety and perhaps those with symptoms of dementia.

Psi Chi, the national honor society in psychology, awarded Zoladz a $1,000 grant to fund his research.
At the WV EPSCoR competition, his project will be evaluated based on content and presentation, as well as plans for publication and support funding.
The Researcher of the Year and runner-up will be announced at the conference luncheon on May 12; both a monetary prize and a commemorative gift will be awarded.
“Phil has done an outstanding job of going ‘above and beyond’ what would be expected for a typical senior thesis, and he is an excellent example of a student who embraces the Jesuit values of improving the human condition,” says Raudenbush, Zoladz’s faculty research mentor. “Many people could benefit from Phil's research.”

Zoladz will graduate summa cum laude from Wheeling Jesuit in May with a bachelor of arts degree in psychology and a minor in philosophy. While at Wheeling Jesuit, Zoladz has served as a teaching assistant, tutor and research assistant.

Also during his undergraduate career, Zoladz has received many awards for excellence in academics and service, made numerous presentations and had several abstracts published.

His professional memberships include: Alpha Sigma Nu, national Jesuit honor society; American Psychological Association (student affiliate); Association for Chemoreception Sciences; North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity; Psi Chi (president); Phi Sigma Tau, national honor society in philosophy (vice president); Society for Psychophysiological Research; and Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior.

After graduation, Zoladz will enter the University of South Florida’s doctoral program in cognitive and neuronal sciences to study the effects of stress on the ability to retain information in long-term memory.

In addition to receiving a full-tuition waiver and a $15,000 stipend for each of his four years at USF, Zoladz will be the graduate assistant for the psychology department, a teaching assistant and a research assistant.

Wheeling Jesuit University integrates the Jesuit traditions of intellectual excellence with the best of advanced technology to help students develop lives of service, success and significance. The University's mission is to educate students for life, for leadership, and for service with and among others. U.S.News & World Report ranks Wheeling Jesuit University 16th in the "Best Master’s Universities in the South," making it the highest ranked institution in West Virginia for the seventh consecutive year. Wheeling Jesuit--the only Catholic institution of higher education in West Virginia--offers more than 30 undergraduate programs of study and six graduate degrees to about 1,500 students each year. It has a student-to-faculty ratio of 13 to 1, and 17 intercollegiate NCAA Division II athletic teams. The 65-acre campus located in Wheeling, W.Va., includes 15 modern buildings, multi-million dollar Acker Science Center, and residence halls, and a modern recreation and athletic facility that includes a soccer/track and field complex. The campus is home to the Robert C. Byrd National Technology Transfer Center, the Erma Ora Byrd Center for Educational Technologies, a Challenger Learning Center and the Clifford M. Lewis Appalachian Institute.

To arrange a visit of the Wheeling Jesuit University campus, or to apply, call 1-800-624-6992 or e-mail admiss@wju.edu or visit Wheeling Jesuit online at www.wju.edu.

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