“I never thought I’d be doing research like this”

September 13, 2023

The Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) program, now in its fifth year, elevates research opportunities for Dearborn Wolverines.

Photo of CASL student Courtney Hadrian
CASL senior Courtney Hadrian performs research for Assistant Professor Jie Fan.

UM-Dearborn’s Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) program provided opportunities for 32 Dearborn Wolverines, working with faculty mentors, to discover something new this summer — new information, places, experiences and skills.

For nearly three months, student work included documenting a music festival in the Appalachian Mountains, researching effective global digital marketing strategies and collecting oral histories of BIPOC food growers and farmers. You can see all projects at the SURE Showcase, which takes place from 4 to 6 p.m. today in the Mardigian Library.

Check out three of the projects below. Three others were featured in Reporter earlier this week.

Photo of Kathy Bibang and Professor Wayne Fu

Kathy Bibang, Wayne Fu and Kyungwon Lee: “Digital Marketing and Talent Management Strategies in the Entertainment Industry” (COB)

Korean pop supergroup BTS launched an animation-driven live stream on YouTube that showed a pat of melting butter, a 60-minute timer in the corner and background noises like eggs frying and coffee cups clinking. A #WhatsMelting hashtag followed. At the end of the hour, nearly a million curious people watched as the group announced its song “Butter,” which went on to top music charts worldwide. That’s just one example of how the Korean entertainment industry successfully uses digital marketing.

College of Business junior Kathy Bibang is a fan of both K-pop and marketing — and a SURE project this summer helped her learn more about both. Wanting to get insight on how digital marketing and talent management strategies can increase market presence through various platforms on a global level, Bibang conducted a comparative study on two major entertainment corporations: HYBE (BTS’ promotion company) and the Walt Disney Company.

“We analyzed the respective companies’ approaches when it comes to talent attraction and recruitment, performance review, growth and development, and rewarding artists/employees, as well as their search engine optimization, content management, and social media monitoring,” she says. This research experience has helped me learn how to systematically and critically evaluate corporate strategies and make useful suggestions.”

Fu said Bibang’s dedication to the topic and work was impressive. She searched a wide spectrum of information, digested and synthesized data systematically, and practiced sharing the findings effectively. “The work she did on the project truly reflects how much she loves digital marketing, talent management, K-pop and the entertainment industry in general,” Fu says.

Photo of Courtney Hadrian and Professor Jie Fan

Courtney Hadrian and Jie Fan: “Study the Role of Cancer Cell Chirality During Detachment from the Primary Tumor” (CASL)

Like many, senior Courtney Hadrian has loved ones who have been diagnosed with cancer. But unlike most people, the biological sciences major is conducting research that may hold the key to slowing or stopping the progression of the disease.

Hadrian assists Biological Sciences Assistant Professor Jie Fan in his Natural Science Building laboratory. Earlier this year, Fan shared a new discovery with the medical research community: Fan noticed that healthy blood vessel cells, called endothelial cells, have chirality, which means they are mirror images of one another. This allows the cells to lock tightly together in a clockwise direction. But when tumor cells are introduced, the blood vessel’s cells start connecting in a random pattern, causing leaks and a way for cancer cells to travel through the bloodstream. Fan says this research will help scientists better understand the cells’ interactions, which holds promise for better controlling cancer metastasis or spread.

This summer, Hadrian’s research provided more evidence to support the role that chirality has in the spread and potential treatment of cancer. “We found that when breast cancer epithelial cells are introduced to healthy breast epithelial cells their differences in chirality allow metastasis to occur,” Hadrian says. “While this finding is still tentative due to a need for further research, we believe it to be one that could potentially help the medical community.” Hadrian’s research work with Fan is ongoing.

Hadrian, who plans to attend graduate school to become a physician assistant, says she was looking for research opportunities on campus, but didn’t expect to be conducting research at this level so early in her academic career. “I never thought I’d be doing research like this as an undergrad. It’s been such an amazing experience,” she says. “I’ve always loved science and want to do something that can have a positive impact in people’s lives. I’m forever grateful for the time I’ve had working with Professor Fan in his lab."

CEHHS faculty Finn Bell and Health and Human Services senior Briana Hurt
Photo credit/ Melvin Parson

Briana Hurt and Finn Bell: “Creating an Oral History Archive of Ypsilanti's BIPOC and Working-Class Food Growers” (CEHHS)

Health and Human Services senior Briana Hurt helped Human Services Assistant Professor Finn Bell with his ongoing research into the experiences of working class and BIPOC food growers and small farmers. Their project focused on the Ypsilanti community, where Hurt worked with folks like Melvin Parson, founder of We the People Opportunity Farm, a three-quarter acre farm that supports men and women returning from incarceration with paid internships. 

Hurt says one of the research skills she really took to heart was the importance of people sharing their own stories, in their fullest, as they told them, not academic interpretations of them. “It was amazing to spend time on Melvin’s farm and see how much hard work goes into it, it’s a new world for me,” Hurt says. “And for Melvin, and many other growers, especially BIPOC folks, there is a sense of healing that comes from the land, because that history wasn’t always the most positive. When he’s out there, he says he can see his ancestors being out there with him. And when he takes a break, he honors them, because they couldn’t take breaks when they wanted. He takes time to appreciate the land and his autonomy.”

Bell says he and their community partners were consistently impressed with Hurt’s ability to earn people’s trust and build enthusiasm for the oral history project. “Bri is excellent at the academic part, but the people part, that can be hard to teach, which is why I know she’s going to make a great social worker or public health worker,” Bell says. “She really shined at that throughout the summer.”