Connor Meza originally came to UNL as a business major. After taking a few sociology courses, Connor realized that sociology better fit his interests and would give him more opportunities to participate in the kinds of research he was interested in. Now a junior sociology major with a minor in anthropology, Connor is currently working as a UCARE (Undergraduate Creative Activities & Research) with Dr. Jacob Cheadle, whom he worked with earlier as a USTARS (Undergraduate Sociology Teaching and Research Student).
Connor first learned about the USTARS program from one of his professors during his freshman year. Connor’s first research experience in his sophomore year involved analyzing biomarkers from hair, saliva, and blood samples of research participants in order to measure participants’ stress levels. It was during this project that Connor learned about the UCARE program.
Now funded under UCARE, Connor is collaborating with Dr. Cheadle in experiments involving electrodermal activity, or EDA, and how it can be used to research the experiences of people of color. EDA measures states of emotional arousal through skin conductivity. Measurements of skin conductivity, however, can differ between the left and right sides of a person’s body. Part of Connor and Dr. Cheadle’s current research is mapping these kinds of differences to create a template for future experiments involving EDA.
Part of their current research also involves developing portable, wireless devices that can measure a person’s EDA. Of particular interest to them is using these portable devices on participants who are people of color in order to measure their responses to the discrimination and racism they encounter in a typical day. Though current EDA technology is useful in laboratory settings, Connor and Dr. Cheadle hope the technology they’re developing can be used to measure an individual’s EDA activity throughout their typical day, making the data a truer reflection of individuals’ everyday reactions.
“My current research with EDA is my baby, so to speak,” Connor said. “I’ve been around since EDA was first brought to the lab and Dr. Cheadle’s attention, and it’s been fascinating to see our research branch out and begin to bear fruit. My research really feels like something I can accomplish, and that’s one of the best feelings.”
When he graduates next academic year, Connor is considering pursuing graduate school.
Story by Lane Chasek
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