Make The Connection, Faculty

March 23, 2023 | By Cole Hatcher

Emma Zajac ’23 (standing from left), professor Kira Bailey, and Abby Markley ’24 are using a video game programmed by Navami Shenoy ’23 (seated) to study cognitive functioning. The Ohio Wesleyan students will present their findings at the April 20 Student Symposium. (Photo by Paul Vernon)

Serious Game

Ohio Wesleyan Students Using Student-Programmed Video Game to Study Cognitive Functioning

Name: Abigail “Abby” Markley ’24
Hometown: Westerville, Ohio
High School: Westerville North High School
Majors: Neuroscience (Molecular and Cellular) and Pre-Medicine
Minor: Chemistry

Name: Emma Zajac ’23
Hometown: Des Plaines, Illinois
High School: Saint Viator High School
Majors: Neuroscience, French, and Pre-Medicine
Minor: Chemistry

OWU Connection Experience: Markley and Zajac are working alongside students Navami Shenoy ’23 of New Delhi, India, and Millie Rocco ’23 of Vancleave, Mississippi, to collect data on a video game that Shenoy programmed. The long-term goal of the project is to better understand what variables in video games lead to positive and negative changes in cognitive functioning, or brain-based skills needed to learn and reason.

The four Ohio Wesleyan students are being mentored by Kira Bailey, Ph.D., associate professor of Psychology and Neuroscience.

“The real-world application is the design of video games that might be used to enhance cognitive functioning without adverse side effects,” Bailey said, noting the FDA already has approved a video game to aid in the treatment of ADHD. At various stages, Bailey said, the campus project has benefited from funding provided by the Summer Science Research Program and the OWU Connection (through a Theory-to-Practice Grant awarded to Shenoy).

Lessons Learned

Markley: “From this project, I learned how to interact with participants and be better at communicating and answering questions. Better communication and interpersonal skills will help me in the future when interacting with patients and helping them understand their health issues and medical care.”

Zajac: “Before working with Dr. Bailey, I did not think I would enjoy research and honestly thought I was not smart enough to successfully work in a lab. However, after spending about two years working with her, I have come to love it. Because of this and other factors, I am excited to continue this type of work in the future by going to graduate school to work with other professors on their research and conduct my own research.”

Why Ohio Wesleyan

Markley: “When applying to schools, I looked for ones that had Neuroscience programs and somewhere I would be able to play soccer. Both my parents are OWU alumni, and they told me to look here because they believed it would be a good fit for me. The previous soccer coach reached out and asked if I would be interested. She set up a campus tour, in-class visit, and an overnight. The girls on the soccer team were very welcoming, and this was the first place that I could see myself attending for the next four years!”

Zajac: “I chose OWU because it had everything I was looking for. It had small class sizes, all undergraduates, research opportunities, a great science program, a welcoming tennis team, and a strong sense of community.”

Plans After Graduation

Markley: “After graduation, I plan on taking a gap year and working in a hospital setting to gain more experience before applying to medical school. In the future, I plan to specialize in Neurology. OWU has helped me prepare by giving me shadowing opportunities, which are an important aspect when applying to medical schools. With smaller class sizes as well, I have been able to form personal connections with some of my professors who have given me opportunities, such as this research project, to strengthen my career goals and learn more outside of the classroom.”

Zajac: “I am taking a year off to work, most likely in some sort of service role. I plan to get my Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and hope to become a neuropsychologist. OWU has given me many opportunities for real-life experiences in different fields and because of this I feel very confident that this career path is right for me.”