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The Undergraduate Research Symposium has always taken place in the Daniel P. Nolan Gymnasium, where students in business attire stand by their posters prepared to present their findings to visitors. This year’s symposium took place via Zoom. Students presented on camera one at a time for two minutes each, discussing projects that reflected the input of close to 20 faculty supervisors.

Despite the change in format, Dr. Ian MacDonald, dean of the School of Mathematics and Sciences, said this year’s Undergraduate Research Symposium on April 21 was a success. The College library and his staff had laid the groundwork, submissions were in and published, the judges on board, the students enthusiastic, and plenty of visitors ready to view the projects.

“I volunteered to emcee the event, which would last only an hour. I contacted each student to let them know how to connect and prepare for a maximum of two minutes in the spotlight,” he said. “We got one poster just an hour before. We were able to insert it and add the abstract and schedule the student for a presentation. I admit I was nervous.

“But it went amazingly well! I could not be prouder of our students. I am continually impressed by the dedication and mentoring from our staff and faculty,” MacDonald added.

The symposium welcomes undergraduates across the disciplines to share their research. The Sister Katherine McPeak Undergraduate Research Symposium Library Award allows students to submit their posters for judging. Winners – first place receives $300, second place, $200 – demonstrate depth in their research and submit an essay that amplifies the process and results.

This year, 32 students submitted posters, examining the impacts of social media, mental health care in prison, human rights overseas, neurodevelopment, bacteria and antibacterial resistance, and corporate debt. Four students received the coveted awards, Kyle Humphreys (first, communications), Aileen Burke (second, political science), Nia Brown (first, biology), and Caitlyn Dabagian (second, biology).

Observers said though submissions were down this year, the work was strong. And, the students who stuck with their projects during the adjustment to online learning from home had to work that much harder.

MacDonald said the digital format allowed students to present their research once compared to a traditional symposium where students present multiple times throughout the evening. Participants had a chance to ask questions using Zoom’s chat feature. Not only that, but he could see the numbers of virtual visitors tick up to 60 which included faculty, administrators, staff, and trustees.

Presenting online meant a good deal of work for the Neil Hellman Library, which helps organize the symposium. Librarian Young-In Kim said she and her co-workers put together a website where judges could access posters and interviews to score them.

“Competitors are usually scored on their interactions with faculty judges the day of the symposium,” she explained. “But this time, our faculty judges, who are already very busy with online instruction, were able to view and score the interviews when they had time.

“It was interesting learning about everyone’s research and the community was so supportive and uplifting,” Kim added.

“In one instance, a student’s mic was not working,” MacDonald said. “Her faculty advisor jumped in and presented her poster. She was on camera and could see it. Her advisor saved the day!”

The Sister Katherine McPeak Undergraduate Research Symposium Library Award Winners:

Arts and Humanities

First Place
Kyle Humphreys, communications,
“At Your Discretion: Content Warning Implementation on Mastadon,” faculty supervisor, Associate Professor Jin Kim

Second Place
Aileen Burke, political science, “Growing Connections With the Vegetable Project,” faculty supervisor, Associate Professor Cailin Brown

Mathematics and Sciences

First Place
Nia Brown: biology, “Maternal Alcohol Exposure Affects Progenitors of Precerbellar Neurons via Changes in BMP Signaling,” faculty supervisor, Associate Professor Rebecca Landsberg

Second Place
Caitlyn Dabagian: biology,
“The Impact of Oyster Aquacultures on Meiofauna Abundance and Diversity,” faculty supervisor, Professor Brian Jensen

Participants and their research:

Alexis Estevez, music, “The Music of Argentina,” faculty supervisor, Professor Claire Ziamandanis
Carly Hillman, childhood/special education, “The Children Taken at Birth,” faculty supervisor, Professor Claire Ziamandanis
Wari Isaac, business management, “The Rise of Corporate Debt and its Relation to Acquisitions and Stock Buy Backs,” faculty supervisor, Assistant Professor Charles Murray
Roko Jelavic, psychology, “Gauchos of Patagonia,” faculty supervisor, Professor Claire Ziamandanis
Sydney Manning, Dayla DeMicco, and Sarah Clark, communications, “Protocol Change Limits Learning,” faculty supervisor, Associate Professor Cailin Brown​
Emily O’Leary, early childhood education, “Immigrants in Argentina,” faculty supervisor, Professor Claire Ziamandanis
Elizabeth Tornatore, special education, “Mothers March in Argentina,” faculty supervisor, Professor Claire Ziamandanis
Bobbi Le’Rae Valentin, English, “The Disappeared: The Victims of Argentina’s Dirty War,” faculty supervisor, Professor Claire Ziamandanis
Victor Aisogun, biology, “Determining Factor Affecting Core Oral Microbiome for Saint Rose students,” faculty supervisor, Assistant Professor Kelly Hallstrom
Julia Bishop, psychology, “Parasocial Relationships With Celebrities and Their Relationships with anti-Vaccination Policy Attitudes,” faculty supervisor, Associate Professor Ross Krawczyk
Mary Borchardt, forensic psychology, “Attitudes Toward Mental Health Care in Prisons,” faculty supervisor, Assistant Professor Katlyn Farnum
Gabrielle Canzano, forensic science, “Investigating the Presence of Microplastics in Onondaga Lake,” faculty supervisor, Assistant Professor Kelly Hallstrom
Emily Disco, biology/ cytotechnology, “The Relationship Between Bacteria, Antibiotic Resistance, and the Home,” faculty supervisor, Professor Ann Zeeh
Frank Houser, psychology, “The Relationship Between Dispositional Love and Well-Being,” faculty supervisor, Professor Nancy Dorr
Mercedes Hutchings,  psychology, “Parenting as a Predictor of Self-Efficacy ad Academic Motivation in Adults Children,” faculty supervisor, Professor Nancy Dorr
Juliette Jozwiak¸ chemistry, “Investigation of New Organic Chemistry Procedure Design,” faculty supervisor, Assistant Professor Patrick Jokiel
Hellen Jumo, chemistry, “Understanding the Role of the RNA- binding Protein STAU2 in Brain Development and Function,” faculty supervisor, Associate Professor Rebecca Landsberg
Daniel Klein and Gregory M. John, computer science, “Training a Deep Convolutional Neural Network to Interpret the American Sign Language Alphabet,” faculty supervisor, Assistant Professor Zumrat Ackam-Kibis
Abigail Kronau and Morgan Percy, biology, “The Effects of Juul-pod e-Cigarette Vaping Solution on Human Lung Fibroblast Cells Over a 72-Hour Period,” faculty supervisor, Professor Ann Zeeh
Niva Mahajan, computer science, “Heterogeneity of Mitochondria Morphology in Breast Cancer Cells,” faculty supervisor, Professor Amina Eladdadi
Sheba Mendoza, biology, “The Effects of Micro-plastics on Freshwater Turtles,” faculty supervisor, Assistant Professor Kelly Hallstrom
Comfort Obeng, biology, “Synthesis of DC-EBIO via Palladium-Catalyzed Carbon-Hydrogen Amination,” faculty supervisor,  Assistant Professor Patrick Jokiel
Lauren Ostrowski, psychology, “The Relationship Between Levels of Neuroroticism, Quality of Sleep, and Depressed Mood,” faculty supervisor, Associate Professor Ross Krawczyk
Charles Saez, biochemistry, “The Effect of Biofilms on the Survival of Streptococcus mutans in Various Copper Concentrations,” faculty supervisor, Assistant Professor Kelly Hallstrom
Charles Saez, biochemistry, “Synthesis of Benzimidazolones via Palladium-catalyzed C-H Amination: a Regioselectivity Study,” faculty supervisor, Assistant Professor Patrick Jokiel
Eric Szillus II, biology, “Testing for Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria in the Albany Hudson River,” faculty supervisor, Professor Ann Zeeh

The Undergraduate Research Symposium was possible because of the support of the following individuals and departments:

Funding: School of Arts and Humanities, the Huether School of Business, the Thelma P. Lally School of Education, and the School of Mathematics and Sciences
Reflection Question Judges: Jay Kibby, Mary Lindner, Kate Moss, and Pete Osterhoudt
Poster/Interview Judges: Mary Cosgrove, John Dion, Liz Richards, and Peter Young
Administrative Support: Ian MacDonald and Carol Seitz
Award Organizers: Pete Osterhoudt, Young-In Kim, and Andrew Urbanek