Students shine at research conference

May 4, 2017
David McFarland
The Undergraduate and Graduate Research Conference showcases the best and brightest of our students.

The Academic Excellence Series showcases the best and the brightest of Clarion University and nowhere is that more apparent than at the Undergraduate and Graduate Research Conference.

At the conference, students put their research and literature reviews on display and it varied across disciplines and interests.

Some research topics had titles longer than your arm, while others have titles that may seem shocking like student Lara Mahaffy's topic of "Female Hysteria in the Victorian Era: The Medical Community, Society and Perceptions of Sexuality."

Although her work may sound risqué, Mahaffy's professional approach to the topic wasn't. Mahaffy said in the Victorian era "women's sexuality was sort of viewed as an illness" and women were experiencing sexual frustration. To relieve this frustration, women were manually stimulated by doctors and midwives without it being considered sexual.

Times eventually changed regarding that topic but times haven't changed regarding another. Directly beside Mahaffy was Kristy McKee whose topic "The Divide of the People" focused on the discrimination everyone uses against others.

"Discrimination – you see it everywhere," McKee said. "Nobody's absent from this problem."

She explained that a person's brain tries to simplify everything it takes in, but the problem is that people aren't simple. Also, those same oversimplifications are keeping you alive in helping you discern between things like danger and safety and food and non-food.

The trick is to be aware of our discriminating brains, understanding them and modifying our behavior accordingly.

"If you can become aware of how your brain can trick you, you can decrease it," she said.

David McFarland
Josh Domitrovich (left) listens to a student's presentation on her research project at the Undergraduate and Graduate Research Conference.

Her hope is that these psychological skills can help reduce wars and promote peace. In order to help her with this project she joined groups that were outside her comfort zone such as Ultimate Frisbee and religious clubs. While her research at times made her uncomfortable, she said she had fun and made new friends.

Other students conducted literature reviews like Jessica Dgien, Jayme Krause and Taylor Walsh who focused on the topic of Huntington's disease for greater understanding.

Another group of students had to learn how to take a photograph just by looking at a professional's photograph. The subject matter in the photograph was water droplets.

Alyssa Tufano, Tahj Dickerson and Austin Robinson tested camera settings and other variables to achieve photographs with still water drops for their project "Masterminds and the Art of Capturing Water Droplets."

Some research projects combined disciplines and passions like Leah Keth who is an art and biology double major. She eventually wants to become a scientific illustrator. Her drawings on the micro caddis fly were on display.

Other projects found surprising results like that of Ariel Wenner and Victoria Porter whose work titled "Analysis of Fish Behavior and Respiration in Fluctuating Temperature Cycles" discovered that fish in the area adapt to changing water temperatures and their breathing slows or speeds up according to those temperatures.

Wenner said they were interested in this topic because the weather in Clarion always seems to change suddenly and wondered what the impact might be on fish. There also are some implications of climate change in their work.

Other research projects were "Holy Frack," "Implementing Technology to Bring Trigonometry Outside the Classroom," The Impact of the Roosevelt-Taft Quarrel on the 1912 Presidential Election," "An Analysis on the Understory Composition in Clarion Woods" among many, many others.


Last Updated 4/9/18