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Monday, May 23, 2011

Talents Displayed at SHU Research Poster Showcase

Talents Displayed at SHU Research Poster Showcase
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Sacred Heart University)

Fairfield, CT – Behind some very long titles tagging tabletop-placed research exhibits was a lot of hard work and a number of proud students happy to provide more information.

Hosted by the College of Arts and Sciences, the 12th Annual Undergraduate Research Poster and Showcase Session was conducted early Friday afternoon April 29 in the Commons Room at Sacred Heart University’s 5151 Park Avenue campus. Twenty-five posters were exhibited, spanning nine disciplines, with 52 students participating.

“The event is an opportunity for Arts and Sciences students to present their undergraduate research, showcase or project to the greater University community,” said Marlina Slamet, chairperson of the event and a physics professor at the school. “The Arts and Sciences college includes majors in arts, science and humanities, though, in the last four years, we’ve also had participants from our neighbor college of Education and Health Professions, with entries related to athletic training and exercise science.”

Slamet said projects are judged by 12 faculty members from among the disciplines represented, who asses the quality of the poster content and a student’s ability to answer questions related to their research and findings.

“In addition to the poster awards, recognition was given to the top three of the more than a dozen entries in a Writing Across the Curriculum competition,” Slamet added.

One of the more cumbersome project titles was “Cerebral Arteriovenous Malformation on the Major Cortex of a 17-year-old Male High School Football Player,” presented by Brittany Holcomb, 21, of Ansonia, CT.

The senior and double major in Athletic Training and Exercise Science boiled her project down, explaining, “The condition is a rare congenital disorder wherein the arteries attach to veins which don’t allow blood to pass through the capillary system. In this case that I’ve profiled, the football player had a helmet-to-helmet collision resulting in a concussion. He was taken to the hospital for diagnostic imaging, which revealed the cerebral disorder, then had gamma-knife radio-surgery treatment. Later, he exhibited signs of radiation necrosis, leading to left side weakness. The malformation was very large – it was surprising it wasn’t detected before.”

James Roberts, 22, a senior from North Haven, CT, said his project was about how habitat destruction affects the community structure of songbirds. “I found that juvenile songbirds are using Veteran’s Memorial Park in Bridgeport more than adult birds, as the adults recognize the park as a poor migration stopover site.”

Roberts’ project partner, Brittany Hartman, 21, added, “As ecology conservation majors, identifications of these kinds of sites will be part of our career work.”

An exhibit garnering a lot of interest was Nick Kapoor’s project, titled “Do Great Presidents Appoint Great Supreme Court Justices?”  The 20-year-old double major in Government & Politics and Mathematics, said, “I looked at different unbiased national presidential polls along with unbiased data on justices, from the past six decades, to find a correlation between the perception of the president and his justice appointees.”

Kapoor said his research was unique. “This question has never been asked at this level, so it’s a very original study,” he said. “I’m hoping to get it published in an undergraduate journal, as a jumping off point.”

Faculty member Christopher Mojcik, a biology instructor and poster judge, commented on the event in general. “This is always fun,” he said. “The students work very hard on their projects. It’s nice to see the end results and to see them professionally mannered giving their presentations.”

Mojcik said he was impressed by the breadth of topics covered given that Sacred Heart is not a huge college. “In the biology discipline, everything from molecular topics to field studies in the wild is covered,” he said. “Some of the topics are quite complex but the students do a good job of walking people through them.”

Offering another faculty perspective was Jonas Zdanys, Associate VP for Academic Affairs. “This is my third poster session,” he said. “Each year the level of quality is surpassed and the projects become increasingly relevant. Some of these areas have never been studied before and our students are leading the research. That’s important for the university’s commitment to developing research agendas with all of our students. The University aims to ensure deeper research opportunities for students. The posters are a wonderful illustration of that effort.”

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