For cardiology technician Josie Howell, reading the wavy lines of heart monitors inspired an honors project.

“I love hearts,” explained Howell, 30, of Texas City. “We do EKGs and then show them to health care professionals. Everyone knew the machine (interpretation of whether a heart rate was normal or abnormal) was not always right, but a lot of people accepted the machine-generated interpretation over their own even when it was wrong.”
Enrolled in English 1301 at College of the Mainland, Howell determined to delve further in the subject and discover which proved more accurate, human or machine interpretations.
To launch her project, she interviewed eleven health care professionals. She showed them EKGs, some with machine interpretations across the top and others without automatic interpretations.
“My project revealed that the average health care professional interpreted the results better without the machine,” explained Howell. “People were more likely to agree with the machine even though they had the ability to interpret [EKGs more accurately than the machine].”
Howell presented her research at the second annual COM symposium, winning first place in the Communications and Humanities category.
“People asked really good questions and I thought ‘This matters to others.’”
English professor Dalel Serda served as Howell’s mentor in becoming the first COM student to complete an honors project.
“The point of the English class is to think critically and to research something meaningful that students are proud to showcase,” said professor Dalel Serda. “Josie’s project went above class expectations for the assignment. The entire honors committee gave it high marks. That says a lot about the quality of the project.”
To earn honors credit, students must earn an 85 or higher in the class, contract with the professor outlining the extra research or creative project they will complete, meet with the professor regularly and present their research or creative work at the COM symposium or other public forum.
“Professors are willing to work with students willing to put in the extra time and effort,” said Dr. Nakia Welch, COM Honors Committee Co-Chair.
“Josie Howell did an amazing project. Her transcript now has an ‘H’ next to ENG 1301.”

With a 4.0 GPA, Howell works full-time in addition to attending classes. She plans to become a registered nurse.
The skills she learned will serve her as she continues her studies.
“I’m so far from done. Professor Serda is very encouraging. She has a way of motivating people. She challenges everybody at their own level. She sets the bar high but if she sees you can do more, she moves your bar,” said Howell.
“Ms. Serda had a lot to do with my raising my own expectations for myself.”