February 11, 2019 | Katherine Adams
Texas Undergraduate Research Day is an annual event that provides the opportunity for undergraduate students engaged in research to showcase how their work positively impacts Texas to state legislators. This year, Assistant Professor of Information Technology Lisa Lacher and her research assistant, senior Cydnee Biehl, were selected to represent University of Houston-Clear Lake at the Texas State Capitol Building at the event, themed “Transforming Texas through Undergraduate Research,” to be held in Austin on April 1.
“Our research focuses on team communications through technology called ‘Discord,’” Biehl said. “It was initially created for gamers, with instant messaging and voice chat and channels where you can do voice calls with multiple people. Now it’s starting to be used as a communications tool in industry.”
Lacher said that their research explored the degree to which social sensitivity may correlate with soft skills like communication and effective interaction, which could affect the outcome of a team’s performance. “The biggest indicators of a positive outcome is good communication and collaboration, which are the soft skills associated with social sensitivity,” she explained. “We don’t often think about how we can help students improve these skills in tech classrooms, but these skills influence the amount of communication and the ultimate performance in face-to-face teams. Virtual teamwork is becoming more common these days, and we need to look more at how to improve virtual communication skills.”
Biehl said, “We found that teams with higher levels of social sensitivity communicated more and performed better.”
Lacher said that the highlights of the research would be put on a poster and presented informally, and legislators and others would walk through, and read and ask questions.
“The informal environment and the one-on-oneness will get to what interests one person and we hope they’ll ask more detailed questions about what they find interesting about our research,” Lacher said.
About 75 research projects will be displayed in a poster format demonstrating the research of undergraduate students representing over 50 academic and health-related institutions across Texas.
Biehl, 21, is a resident of Deer Park and is scheduled to graduate with her bachelor of science in information technology in spring 2019. She credits the experience she has acquired through her research assistantship for receiving a summer internship at Disney Pixar’s main campus in Oakland, Calif.
For more information about UH-Clear Lake’s Information Technology program, visit www.uhcl.edu/science-engineering/departments/computing-sciences/information-technology.