Tag: David Thornton

Student Research Symposium marks 25 years

Katie ClineEditor-in-Chief

Jacksonville State University proudly celebrated the 25th year of its Student Research Symposium from February 14-16, 2018. Students from every school participated at both the undergraduate and graduate level, competing for the ultimate prize of Best in Showcase.

This year was the first year for the Best in Showcase award, and the grand prize went to Joy Pinckard for her creation of the app “Feathered Friends” under the mentorship of Dr. David Thornton, an associate professor of computer science. “Feathered Friends” is a game where users can breed, raise and bond with a pet bird. Players can also dress their birds in clothing they purchase using in-game coins and race their birds in a “Flappy Bird” style mini game. Pinckard, who hopes to go into video game development, designed the app from scratch, including 3D modeling, programming and animation.

Joy Pinckard (center left) took home the biggest award of the symposium: Best in Showcase. She is pictured following her presentation with her mentor, Dr. David Thornton (center right) and her classmates (The JSU Student Symposium/Facebook).

“Joy is one of the most productive students I’ve ever worked with,” Thornton said during Picnkard’s presentation. “Almost nobody has the skills to do all that.”

“I took Game Design I and II with Dr. Thornton, and that inspired me to continue my studies and work in game design,” Pinckard said. “It’s something that I’m very passionate about because it combines my love of 3D modeling, programming and human interface.”

Pinckard plans to continue to update the app, eventually adding additional mini games like a beauty pageant.

A second top award went to Griffin McDaniels for Best Graduate Paper. McDaniels is a biology graduate student who is currently working on his master’s thesis with Dr. George Cline. McDaniels’ paper, which covered his thesis work thus far, was entitled “A broader approach to ecology and timing of symbiosis between the Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) and a unicellular green alga.”

Dr. George Cline (center) with his graduate students Katelyn Henderson (left) and Griffin McDaniels (right). Henderson and McDaniels both took home awards at the 2018 Student Research Symposium, Henderson for Best Graduate Presentation for the School of Science and McDaniels for Best Graduate Paper Overall (Katie Cline/The Chanticleer).

“Craig Guyer [of Auburn University] was kind enough to recommend that these guys come to JSU so we could work together, and I have been absolutely thrilled,” Cline said. “Griffin has an absolutely cool project that consumes my thinking and his thinking on almost night and day.”

McDaniels is studying the symbiotic relationship between spotted salamander larvae and a green alga that appears inside the salamander’s eggs. The alga produces oxygen for the larvae, and the larvae, in turn, produce carbon dioxide for the alga. McDaniels’ goal is to determine whether the alga enters the eggs via the female salamander or through the environment and when in the salamander’s developmental cycle the alga appears.

“Unfortunately, the verdict is still out,” McDaniels said. “Weather has been a problem, and, due to the drought last year, the salamanders didn’t breed, and, this year, they decided to wait and not breed until last week, so I haven’t had time to gear up that data yet. So, if you want to hear the end of the story, show up to my thesis defense.”

The full list of winners from the 2018 Student Research Symposium are:

Best of Showcase: Joy Pinckard mentored by David Thornton

Best Cover Design: Kelsey Blangin mentored by Chad Anderson

Best Graduate Paper: Griffin McDaniels mentored by George Cline

Best Undergraduate Paper: Marelly Balentina mentored by Joy Maloney

Best Graduate Poster/Demo: Daniel Wicker mentored by Lori Tolley-Jordan

Best Undergraduate Poster/Demo: Dianna Thompson, Shelby Harris and Samia Meera mentored by Roger Sauterer

Best of the School of Arts and Humanities: Connor Holcome, Gen Ulanday  and Alex Worsham mentored by Allison McElroy

Best of the School of Health Professions and Wellness : Kyndal Sanford, Carl Hood, and Alexis Johnson mentored by Allison Pearce

Best of the School of Human Services and Social Sciences: Hannah Galloway and Brittany Cangialosi mentored by Heidi Dempsey

Best of the School of Education: Becky Peters mentored by Teresa Gardner

Best Undergraduate Presentation for the School of Science: Taylor Pack mentored by Jim Rayburn

Best Graduate Presentation for the School of Science (tie): Katelyn Henderson mentored by George Cline and  Kristin Carlisle mentored by Jim Rayburn


All the presentations from the 2018 symposium can be found online on the JSUStudentSymposium YouTube channel.

See more pictures from this year’s event below or find “The JSU Student Symposium” on Facebook!

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JSU student creates life-saving app

JSU student Andrew Green and Dr. David Thornton (Department Head and Associate Professor of Computer Science) have been developing an emergency training app entirely from scratch.

“The app is going to be used for training the students at the Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston,” Green explained.

“It will allow one person to oversee all of the trainees on one screen. I created the map of the training facility that the operator will see. The idea is to be able to monitor the trainees and make improvements on how they function,” Green said.

“For example, a group of firefighters would be one squad, and in that squad 4 members. The operator could relay information on the building to the squad, so they would be better suited to stop the fire. The operator might tell 2 of them to go to rear of the building because the fire spread there. Or he might say that the building holds flammable or hazardous materials.”

As of now, Green and Dr. Thornton have been referring to their app in progress as the “Squad Tracker,” but have not made the moniker official yet.

“We are going to continue to improve it this semester,” Green said.