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Graduate Research

Research and achievement at the graduate level

Graduate Research

Like the professors they work with, graduate students at DU are doing research, creative work and scholarship that addresses real-world problems.

Here are a few of the ways our graduate students are working for the public good.

Testing the antioxidants in food

Biology master's student Natalie Kelsey examined the popular claims that antioxidant-rich foods can ward off everything from cancer to Alzheimer's to wrinkles. Kelsey studied whether foods like broccoli, garlic, grapes and rosemary can mitigate the free radicals caused by oxidative stress, which can damage cells and cause disease. She exposed cell cultures to antioxidant compounds, and then to various forms of stress. She found that rather than directly acting as free radical scavengers, the antioxidants in food seem to enhance cells' own antioxidant defenses.

The results of Kelsey's work could help doctors learn how to boost the body's natural tools for fighting disease.

Support for children in poverty

Children living in poverty are exposed to a lot of stress, which makes them more likely to develop high reactivity. That means they have unusually strong physical responses such as increased heart rate, blood pressure and breathing due to environmental stressors.

Many DU graduate students do their research in the field, often with the people their research is intended to help.

To find out whether social support affects children's physical responses to stress, Brian Wolff, a PhD candidate in child clinical psychology, is working with children from Denver-area Head Start centers, all of whom come from families with income below the federal poverty line. Wolff is measuring how their reactivity changes when they spend time in a supportive social environment.

By finding out whether social support lowers low-income children's reactivity, Wolff is helping psychologists work toward lowering children's risk for anxiety disorders.

Understanding American Indian urban cultural identity

From the 1950s to the 1970s, the U.S. government moved more than 150,000 American Indians to cities as part of its Voluntary Relocation Program. For her doctoral research in social work, Nancy Lucero interviewed relocated Indians and their descendants in Denver to see how urbanization affected their cultural identities.

Lucero found that relocation to cities didn't wipe out Indians' culture, but allowed it to grow and adapt, blending tribal practices and values with newly evolving traditions. When social workers better understand urban American Indians, they will communicate more effectively and develop a better rapport with them as clients, Lucero says.