2021 SRET

This year a total of seven CMS teachers completed research experiences this summer. Dr. Janaka Lewis of UNC Charlotte mentored five teachers, including SRET mentor teacher Franchone Bey of West Charlotte High School. Dr. Tracy Brown-Fox of Johnson C. Smith University mentored two teachers in her research examining the thermal properties of natural and synthetic hair. Please click on the Fellows’ images below to see their amazing research posters completed this summer and presented at UNC Charlotte’s Virtual Research Symposium in July 2021.


Title:  Stories of Education and Integration in Charlotte and across the South

Janaka Lewis, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of English, and Director of the Center for the Study of the New South, UNC Charlotte

This research analyzes African American family and specifically childhood narratives of integration.  Found primarily for my purposes in first person books (Promise of Change, Through Their Eyes and other narratives about Ruby Bridges and students who integrated American schools), biographies, and court cases (Brown vs Board of Education of Topeka, Swann vs Mecklenburg County, Belk vs Mecklenburg Board of Education), local newspaper articles (including Dorothy Counts of Charlotte), I ask who were the families involved in integration, how did they make decisions for their children, and what (and how) do we know about the children’s responses?

CMS educators will be encouraged to research the histories of their institutions and what influence narratives of integration, busing, or other legal cases had on those institutions as well as who played a role in their school’s story. 

Research (in person or virtual) in Atkins Library’s Special Collections will also be encouraged.

Franchone Bey, English, West Charlotte High School
“Some school stories have strong external reach, however, internally, the stories have been muted. I’m examining how historical preservation through the use of storytelling can be used to instill pride in students.”

Priscilla Anderson- Prepetit, Language Arts, Martin Luther King, Jr Middle School
“In my research I am pursuing the reasons Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools are faced with the silence of resegregation of schools in the 21st Century”

Kimberly Palmer, 12th Grade English, Merancas Middle College High School

“My research hones in on the effects of the closure of the Torrence-Lytle school and the impact that integration had on those students’ education.”

Jashonai Payne, 4th Grade, Clear Creek Elementary School

“As a resident and teacher on the East side of Charlotte for the last thirteen years, I became curious about the history of Clear Creek Elementary, as well as the histories of the other schools in my own community.”

Mary McElhaney, Social Studies, Mountain Island Lake Academy

“This research examines the demographics of the early Coulwood Community before busing was ordered in the Swann case, during the busing period, and after busing ended in order to understand how the Coulwood has changed over time.”


Title:  Comparing the Thermal Properties of Human Hair and Synthetic Hair

Dr. Tracy Brown-Fox, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Johnson C. Smith University

Understanding the science behind hair goes beyond the latest and stylish hairstyles that most women and men often wear.  Women have been persuaded to adopt looks that require chemically and physically manipulating their natural fibrous biopolymer protein called keratin – polypeptide chains of amino acids such as glycine, alanine, and cysteine.  In addition to this chemical and physical manipulation, women have also included wearing synthetic wigs or adding synthetic hairpieces.  Synthetic polymers(polymers) are used to fabricate wigs and weaves to resemble the appearance of natural hair.  The close parallel between wigs and weaves to natural hair is primarily based on the chemistry and evolution of polymers(plastics) used to fabricate wigs and weaves.  While wigs and weaves can come close to the performance and agility of human hair, they will never be the same as human hair.

This project involves comparing and understanding the thermal properties of human and synthetic hair utilizing high-tech instrumentation often used in thermal analysis.  Thermal analysis is a branch of materials science where the properties of materials are studied as they change with temperature. Instrumentation used for thermal analysis includes a thermogravimetric analyzer (TGA) and differential scanning calorimetry (DSC). The TGA examines the change in mass with respect to temperature and environments (active – air and inactive – nitrogen). The DSC is a thermo-analytical tool that is widely used to study various temperature-induced transitions in many materials. Using experimental designs, SRET fellows will examine 1st and 2nd order transitions (e.g., melting, crystallizing, glass transition) and the heat degradation of the biopolymer in human hair and synthetic polymers used to fabricate synthetic wigs and weaves.  Furthermore, as SRET fellows conduct research on human and synthetic hair, they will also be able to connect the science of hair with the social and economic impact it has on all races and cultures.

 Lynn Roach, Social Studies, West Charlotte High School

I am examining the scientific properties of natural and synthetic hair. I am excited as a History Teacher to be researching and testing this topic.” 

Erika Williams, Science, Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology