Published on April 28, 2023 by Frank Ruggiero  
colloquia johnson waldrep
From left, social work student Ellie Johnson and pharmacy student Stephanie Waldrep took top honors in the graduate level of Samford's Student Research Colloquia.

Samford University’s Student Research Colloquia saw a healthy turnout—in more ways than one.

Out of 154 participating students and 95 poster presentations, two students from the College of Health Sciences took top honors in the colloquia’s graduate level.

Ellie Johnson, Master of Social Work candidate in the School of Public Health, presented research on “Period Poverty and Women's Rights,” while Stephanie Waldrep, Doctor of Pharmacy candidate in McWhorter School of Pharmacy, presented research on “Antioxidant Properties of Anticonvulsants: Implications on Bipolar Disorder Pharmacotherapy.”

“I am humbled by this recognition, especially for conducting research on a topic that can be so taboo and uncomfortable,” Johnson said. “There is minimal research available on period poverty, so my hope is that my research is able to bring greater awareness on the injustices that many women are forced to face.”

Johnson’s poster presentation offered a systematic review on the impacts that “period poverty” has on women’s rights. The concept refers to the lack of accessibility and affordability of hygiene products, with approximately 25% of all women of childbearing age experiencing period poverty—even in highly developed countries like the United States, Johnson explained.

“This can put women in exclusive, vulnerable and unhealthy positions that further traps them in generational poverty,” she said. “The themes of oppression include inadequate standards of health and wellbeing, limited occupational and educational opportunities, and reduced psychological health. Lastly, social and cultural values were found to reinforce the discriminatory behaviors and oppressive ideals.”

Meanwhile, Waldrep’s research focused on the pharmacological treatment of bipolar disorder, a chronic and debilitating psychiatric disorder with significant morbidity and mortality rates.

“My research focuses on the potential antioxidant properties of anticonvulsants with mood-stabilizing capabilities compared to those without,” she explained. “The goal was to ascertain the antioxidant potential of each medication and then correlate these results with each therapy’s clinical efficacy in treating bipolar disorder.

“Interestingly, our data suggest mood-stabilizing anticonvulsants have the propensity to increase superoxide dismutase (SOD) levels with increasing drug concentrations, and therapies lacking in mood-stabilizing properties appear to lower SOD levels with increasing drug concentrations. As mood-stabilizing treatments are considered first-line therapies for bipolar disorder, our data suggests a correlation between increased in vitro SOD activity and historical in vivo therapeutic efficacy.”

Linnea Minnema, event organizer and director of grants and sponsored programs in Samford’s Office of Research, was more than impressed with the participants’ work.

“Our students have so much creativity around the topics they think about—things we take for granted,” she said. “They have a genuinely fresh perspective on research.”

While their research could potentially help others, Johnson and Waldrep feel the colloquia will benefit their professional careers, as well.

“It provided me with a platform to discuss my research with other students and professors, gather professional feedback and work toward future publication and conference presentations,” Waldrep said. “Presenting at the Samford Student Research Colloquia was a fantastic opportunity to further my interpersonal communication and discuss my research with various backgrounds.”

Johnson agreed, noting that she feels more prepared for future professional presentations—and more well-rounded after observing her peers’ research.

“The opportunity to learn about aspects of totally different disciplines is unique to Samford’s focus on holistic learning, and it is even more special when I am able to learn directly from the efforts of other Samford students’ research,” Johnson said.

Further, with the help of other student leaders in the social work program, Johnson has already applied her research toward creating a fundraiser to benefit women in Tanzania.

“We raised funds to send to Tanzania to provide sustainable hygiene products for women,” she said. “The women will be able to buy materials to make reusable pads, and this will provide employment, cultivate conversation and solve many issues related to period poverty.”

The Samford Student Research Colloquia is hosted by the Research Advisory Collaborative, a campus group serving to advance and support the research and scholarship efforts of both faculty and students. Learn more here. To read more about the 2023 Samford Student Research Colloquia, visit here.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.