2019 University Research Day Sees Highest Amount of Presentations in Event History

By Katie Ward

Over 250 students and faculty presented research during the fourth annual University Research Day on Tuesday, April 9. Research included topics such as Latino youth in computer programming, Armenian mythology, and the ability of the yersinia pestis bacteria to be used as  a bioterrorist agent. Students from across campus came to presentations throughout the day to support their fellow classmates and friends.

The day-long event opened with welcome remarks from President John Garvey and a keynote address by associate professor of biology Ann Corsi. Corsi’s address, “Worms and Human Skulls— What a Creature From Compost Can Tell Us,” compared genetic changes in the roundworm and humans with birth defects.

Oral presentations were held in several buildings across campus from 9:45 a.m. to 12 p.m., and students performed musical pieces during and after lunch in the Pryzbyla Center and Ward Hall. The poster session, featuring almost 150 poster presentations by students and faculty, was held in the Pryzbyla Center from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., followed by the awards ceremony in Heritage Hall.

The wide range of research topics promoted interdisciplinary support and advancement between every academic school at Catholic U.

Billy Duke, a sophomore management major, presented a poster on the possibility of the world moving to 100% clean energy by 2050, and said he was surprised with how much he learned from being a participant in the day.

“In my dialogue with classmates, friends, and professors, I was able to learn more about my topic of complete renewable energy in two hours than I could have learned on my own,” Duke said. “The questions that were asked made me view my topic from a different perspective, allowing me to see multiple interpretations of the concept of complete renewable energy.”

Seniors Emma Pederson and Natalie Rice drew comparisons between German and French fascist beliefs to those of the villains in the Harry Potter franchise during an oral presentation session. They pointed out similarities by analyzing the rhetoric of Grindelwald and comparing it side-by-side with that of pro-fascism individuals, as well as drawing similarities between the Deathly Hallows symbol and the swastika.

“I liked that the talk connected something from pop culture that is very accessible to people to an idea that can be complicated so more people can understand it,” said freshman Stephanie Salmento.

Melissa Grady from the National Catholic School of Social Service pitched the idea of Research Day to the provost four years ago, wanting to highlight different things undergraduate and graduate students were doing. In the four years since she started organizing the event, she has only seen it grow and improve.

“It’s just mind-blowing the work that the students are doing, and I think that’s the coolest thing about Research Day,” Grady said. “I have loved seeing how seriously students take it and the professionalism with which they take on the projects. Many of them clearly spend so much time and energy on the projects— and they’re impressive.”

This year, Julia Young and Anita Shagnea, both from the School of Arts and Sciences, served as co-chairs of the Research Day Planning Committee. Young described the day as a “festival for research and knowledge across academic disciplines,” and both professors admired the range of research presentations from across the university— and this year’s 358 submitted abstracts, the highest number in the four years of the event.

“We had two virtual reality displays, a window-cleaning robot, the Steel Bridge team, posters on a huge variety of topics from across the University, and panel presentations on everything from Cuban music to Roman cement to antidepressants,” said Shagnea.

The finalists and award-winning presentations and posters can be found on the Research Day website.

Theresa Whitfield contributed to this article.

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