RESTORE Research Program

Honors students are known for their ability to constantly find ways to elevate their educational experience, which is exactly what is taking place in the new sex trafficking research study here on Auburn’s campus.

The RESTORE Program is a community based participatory program which focuses on a one-size-does-not-fit-all type of study. RESTORE works together with non-profit organizations, law enforcement, healthcare providers, and, most importantly, the survivors of sex trafficking, in order to gain an understanding of each survivor’s unique experience and how needs may vary from one survivor to another.

Through this research, RESTORE hopes to provide information about better healthcare practices and recovery support.

According to Dr. Lauren Ruhlmann, assistant professor at Auburn University and creator of the program, this type of research is especially important because it is the most practical. Through the work of the RESTORE program, therapists will begin to fully grasp the physical, psychological, and relational health of the survivors of sex trafficking, thus leading to more advanced clinical intercessions.

Dr. Ruhlmann currently has four Auburn Honors College students working as undergraduate research assistants with her, all from a wide variety of majors.

These Honors students range from freshmen to juniors and study neuroscience, microbiology, pre-med, and computer science. She finds it especially beneficial for the freshmen to learn and engage with the older students, including graduate students working with Ruhlmann, in order to fully benefit from researching with the RESTORE program.

The undergraduate research assistants tend to work for seven hours each week if they are volunteering with the RESTORE program, but if the research is for class credit they are in the lab for the duration of their class period. Along with the different projects the students are working on, their responsibilities include coding and entering data, cleaning data in computer software, writing manuscripts, and much more.

Rachel Howell, one of the Honors College students working as an undergraduate research assistant with Dr. Ruhlmann, states that social justice and advocacy have always been large parts of her life and the RESTORE program lets her combine the two, which elevates her love for research.

The students themselves are working on both quantitative and qualitative projects for the RESTORE program.

The quantitative project involves working on a one-size-does-not-fit-all survey, which is an online national resource. This quantitative survey is teaching the students how to translate science to everyday practice and how to communicate that research to the general public.

The qualitative work being done has to do with reading and analyzing the transcripts of interviews with survivors of sex trafficking. These interviews give researchers an insight into issues with healthcare, obstacles in survivors’ relationships, and the social stigma surrounding survivors of sex trafficking. Through this qualitative work, students learn how to incorporate social consciousness into their professions. Instead of seeing a list of symptoms, they will see the patient as a whole.

While Howell’s tasks may change from week to week, she regularly completes nine hours of research each week in the RESTORE lab with a  focus on examining and interpreting the current literature in order to contribute to the on-going projects. She is currently working on the qualitative segment of the project, researching the barriers survivors face, with her main responsibility being the literature review. According to Howell, this literature review specifically involves “reading the current research and interpreting it in order to contextualize your own research.” Once completed, the review will then be presented at a regional conference.

Although Howell finds herself with her own specific tasks, she views the work she does in the RESTORE lab as part of a team. She works directly under Dr. Ruhlmann’s graduate assistants, who not only work on their own research, but assign tasks for individuals on their teams. Howell states that each undergraduate research assistant is assigned projects based on their amount of experience and number of hours at the lab. While these undergraduate research assistants may not be assigned the same project all at one time, they still pride themselves on working together as a team.

When it comes to the future of the program, Howell is interested in combining her time spent in the RESTORE lab with parts of her Honors Thesis project. She specifically wants to include research on “the prevalence rates of body dysmorphia and eating disorders” in survivors of sex trafficking. Through the inclusion of this research, she hopes to be able to determine whether or not it is a significant factor in terms of recovery.

The Honors College itself has proved to be especially beneficial for Rachel Howell. From the start, she found that the Honors College could open her mind to much of the world’s issues. She began her freshman year as a participant in the Honors College k(no)w poverty? Week of Service, which gave her an opportunity to meet friends, but to also “strengthen [her] interest in social advocacy.” In addition to service/learning experience, Howell was introduced to the RESTORE program through the Honors College which then eventually led to her enrolling in an Honors Research Seminar in the Spring 2019 semester. The support the Honors College has given her, and continues to give her, has allowed her to travel and present the research done in the RESTORE lab.

Dr. Lauren Ruhlmann is only in her first year as an assistant professor at Auburn University and she has already managed to bring significant change to campus. Ruhlmann earned her PhD at Kansas State and it was there that she developed the idea to create a research program centered around survivors of sex trafficking.

Before she came to Auburn, Ruhlmann was the director of trauma services for survivors of sex trafficking in a residential recovery program. Through this residential recovery program and her history as a marriage and family therapist, she was able to provide trauma therapy to the survivors in the program. Additionally, Ruhlmann worked as both a clinician and a researcher as she met with these survivors.

Many times Dr. Ruhlmann encountered an issue in the trauma room that could not be addressed or met a survivor with such a level of trauma that she started to wonder if there was anything else that could be done. After finding that there was not much information on the severe levels of trauma she was witnessing, Ruhlmann took it upon herself to help start a one-size-does-not-fit-all national study that is one of the largest and most comprehensive studies of its kind.

If you are interested in joining the RESTORE program, you can email Dr. Lauren Ruhlmann (lmr0051@auburn.edu) or reach out to any of the students currently involved. Applications will re-open in the fall for all those looking to join.

National Prestigious Scholarship Information Session Planned

The Honors College will host a national prestigious scholarship information session Thursday, August 31st from 1-2 pm in the ePortfolio Studio located on the 2nd floor of RBD Library.

The session will highlight various prestigious scholarship opportunities available to students on the Auburn University campus such as the Fulbright, National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, Udall, Rhodes, Marshall and Truman, to name a few. Learn more about the various scholarship opportunities and to read stories about recent recipients.

Undergraduate as well as graduate students who meet certain academic qualifications and who are U.S. citizens are eligible to apply for these awards

For additional information about prestigious scholarship opportunities, contact Paul Harris in the Honors College.

NSF Graudate Research Information Session Planned

The Honors College and the Miller Writing Center will host an information session on the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program on Tuesday, July 11 from 1-2:30 pm in the Caroline Marshall Draughon Auditorium located on the ground floor of RBD Library.

U.S. citizens or permanent residents who are pursuing a research-based Master’s or Ph.D. program in an NSF-supported field are eligible to apply.

More information about the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship program.

Applications are not yet open, but students can familiarize themselves with the respective programs to better prepare for the application process. For more information, contact Paul Harris at or Ken Thomas in the Honors College.

Honors College and the Miller Writing Center hosting National Prestigious Scholarships Information Session

The Honors College and the Miller Writing Center will host a national prestigious scholarship information session Wednesday, June 7th from 1-2 pm in the Writing Commons located on the 2nd floor of RBD Library.

The session will highlight various prestigious scholarship opportunities available to students on the Auburn University campus such as the Fulbright, National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, Udall, Rhodes, Marshall and Truman, to name a few. Learn more about the various scholarship opportunities and to read stories about recent recipients.

Undergraduate as well as graduate students who meet certain academic qualifications and who are U.S. citizens are eligible to apply for these awards

For additional information about prestigious scholarship opportunities, contact Paul Harris in the Honors College.

Four Honors Students Nominated for Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship

The prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship Program was established to provide scholarships to outstanding students who intend to pursue careers in mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering. Each scholarship covers eligible expenses up to a maximum of $7,500 annually for undergraduate tuition, fees, books, and housing. In awarding scholarships, the foundation of trustees considers the nominee’s field of study and career objectives along with the extent to which that individual has the commitment and potential to make a significant contribution to the field of science or engineering. Four Auburn University students were nominated for the Goldwater Scholarship this year.

[separator style=”regular”]
Headshot of Maddy Gohlke, Goldwater NomineeMs. Madison Gohlke, an Honors College junior from Anniston, Alabama is pursuing a major in Animal Sciences. Madison’s research, under the direction of Dr. Terry Brandebourg, Associate Professor in the Department of Animal Sciences, examines hyperphagic obesity in the Mangalica pig and its linkage to metabolic disease. For the past two years Madison has successfully developed a novel, non-invasive sampling technique for measuring circulating blood glucose concentrations in pigs.

[separator style=”regular”]
Mr. Seth Rankins, an Honors College junior from Cussetta, Alabama is pursuing a major in wildlife ecology and management in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences. For the past two years, Seth has worked under the direction of Dr. Stephen Ditchkoff in the SFWS examining issues related to white-tailed deer, and more recently has been working with both Dr. Ditchkoff and Dr. Sarah Zohdy in the SFWS studying tick borne diseases, anaplasmosis, and erlichiosis in white-tailed deer. Seth’s research includes extracting genomic DNA from over 200 white-tailed deer from a marked population of deer at the Auburn University Deer Lab in an effort to quickly diagnose anaplasmosis and erlichiosis and prevent its spread.

[separator style=”regular”]
Mr. Matthew Rogers, an Honors College junior from Huntsville, Alabama is pursuing a major in software engineering. For the past year, Matthew has worked under the supervision of Dr. Anthony Skjellum, Professor of Computer Science and Software Engineering. Matthew is currently working to develop a malware analysis tool in an effort to identify ransomware – a malicious program that denies critical access to a computer system until a ransom is paid.

 

[separator style=”regular”]

Mr. Ayden Kish, an Honors College junior from Santa Rosa Beach, Florida is a double major in Physics and Philosophy with a minor in Mathematics.  Ayden’s research, under the direction of Dr. Edward Thomas, professor in the Department of Physics is an investigation of particle transport in a complex (dusty) plasma – a novel type of plasma system in which small, charged microspheres are suspended in an ionized gas environment.  His research focuses on the use of particle image velocimetry (PIV) to obtain time and space resolved measurements of the motion of the microspheres in order to determine the electrical properties of the background plasma and the forces that lead to poloidally rotating structures in the complex plasma.

Undergraduate Poster Presentation Winner

Carrie Hill with her posterHonors College student Carrie Hill won second place in the Undergraduate Poster Presentation, during the 2016 Professional Agricultural Workers Conference-Student Competition held at Tuskegee University this December.

Congratulations Carrie! 

Hill, C. and M.R. Worosz. 2016. Depiction of the Environmental Benefits of Local Beef.