Pictured (left to right) Dr. Jennifer Sims, Alex Haynes and Cassandra Nolen.

Photo Credit Jennifer Clifton

Despite the changes COVID-19 has brought to research and conferences, the Department of Sociology was able to see two of their undergraduate scholars present at the Mid-South Sociological Association Annual Conference.  Alex Haynes (Sociology and Theatre) and Cassandra Nolen (Sociology) co-presented their research with Dr. Jennifer Sims at the conference held virtually October 14-17. 

The Mid South Sociological Association (MSSA) is a valuable organization for sociologists at all career levels in the Mid-South region and across the United States.  The MSSA annual meetings provide sessions on the cutting edge of research interests including but not limited to deviance, criminology, gender studies, theory, disaster and immigration studies. In addition, each meeting includes round tables and panels focusing on professional growth in the areas of teaching, tenure and applications to graduate schools.

The Sociology students were able to extend their Research or Creative Experience for Undergraduates Summer Program (RCEU) at UAH by presenting at a national conference. Both students co-authored their presentations under the research direction of Dr. Sims. While some students will get to extend their RCEU to a conference presentation, it is even more noteworthy to have the work lead to a publication. Haynes and Nolen are second authors on papers from Sim’s 2019 & 2020 research projects and both papers are presently under review at peer reviewed journals. 

Nolen assisted in the research entitled “Best Practices for protecting LGBTQIA Youth in Research” as a part of a larger interview project by Sims. Conducted through interviews, participants were asked what their thoughts were on requiring parental consent for LGBTQIA Youth to participate in research. Nolen and Sims coded all of the interview notes using qualitative methods in QDA Miner Lite looking for themes amongst the answers. Nolen explains the purpose and potential outcomes of the research. 

“We were looking to see if our belief that these particular youths do NOT need parental consent was supported. It is our belief that requiring parental consent could actually do more harm to an LGBTQ+ adolescent because it could potentially result in unsupportive patents. This could lead to a plethora of issues, such as homelessness and abuse. What we found was that the interviewees expressed the same concerns, as well as many others, such as, allowing autonomy for youth, children being competent to understand the process of research, and methodological concerns.” 

Nolen hopes to continue to gain knowledge in qualitative research methods and produce a journal article that would lead to a publication. She plans to attend UA for a Masters degree in Social Work. 

The project Alex Haynes was able to be a research assistant on is entitled “How We See Race: Using Eye-Tracking Technology to Explore Racial Perception.” The research was conducted in the VUE lab in the summer of 2019 using GazePoint eye-tracking bar and software. Haynes describes what their role was in conducting the research and hosting participants in the lab. 

“We had 30 UAH students and employees come in, and they were asked to view one of two powerpoints and assess the race of each woman. There were 15 pictures total on either powerpoint; one had pictures of women with curly hair and the other had pictures of the same women, but with straight hair. The participants were not given any parameters for race beforehand. After all the data was collected, I went through the recorded data in the GazePoint software and drew areas of interest (AOI) boxes over the parts of the picture. This included things like eyes, nose, mouth, forehead, hair, etc.” 

The results of the AOI were then run through quantitative analysis to see if there were any significance arising in the findings. Haynes then helped construct the literature review for Dr. Sims.  

“Race research is a very important field, especially in America today, so I'm hoping that our research will contribute to recognizing biases in facial recognition technology, and possibly help influence laws against discrimination,” Haynes says. 

Haynes hopes to apply to graduate programs in the future. 

Both student researchers and their projects are great examples of the quality of preparation sociology students are able to gain in quantitative and qualitative research methods. Sims notes, “No matter the job, conducting research and analyzing data are skills sets that are marketable in many professional fields.”  The Sociology Department has a host of research method classes being offered online and hybrid. Students outside of Sociology looking to add a research skill set to their degree program can benefit from the Data Analysis Certification

The Sociology Department hopes to continue their long standing tradition of placing undergraduate students in research projects. The department hosts multiple RCEU and research opportunities. 

For more information about the new Data Analysis Certification and the Sociology Department, please contact soc@uah.edu