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Clarion University undergraduates take on scholarly research projects

December 2, 2013

Clarion University Office of the Provost has awarded 29 grants to students for research, scholarly, creative, entrepreneurial and civic projects.

The projects are from various disciplines, including biology, physics, economics, administrative science, political science, psychology, art, speech pathology and audiology, music and anthropology.

According to biology professor Dr. Steven Harris, who coordinates the grant process, by doing scholarly projects, students gain experience that goes beyond the taking of courses.

“For example, Stacey Roy is an art major. She’s combining art with the latest technology in scanning electron microscopes. She just wouldn’t have had this opportunity in her typical art classes.  It goes way beyond anything she would have learned in art classes,” he said.

Students who receive the grants present the results from their projects in an open forum during Academic Excellence Week in the spring. They create a poster and stand beside the poster, answering questions from other students, faculty, staff and administrators.

“They learn a lot of self-assurance,” Harris said. “When they graduate and go into the job market, they have to be able to talk in front of other people and stand up for themselves. (Scholarly projects) take them that extra step beyond.”

Clarion University’s vision is that we will be a leader in high-impact educational practices, and undergraduate research is one example of HIPs.

“The whole idea (of HIPs) is to go to that next level, to challenge students to be creative, for them to see what they can be or can do,” Harris said.

He recalls an advisee who was rather shy and earned average grades. She approached him and said she wanted to get involved in research. They talked and came up with some ideas that interested her; she wrote an undergraduate research grant that was subsequently funded. That summer, she worked in her home state of New Jersey collecting aquatic insects in the Pine Barrens. She came back the next year, worked in the lab every day processing and sorting samples, did her poster and gave several presentations at conferences. By her senior year she was doing independent research and thinking about grad school. Her grades improved, and she became certified as an aquatic biologist. When she left school she found employment, and she’s now working in the area of environmental assessment.

 “Having the opportunity to do this changed her whole outlook on what she was capable of,” Harris said. “I think that’s the case for a lot of students.  As a faculty member, it’s very satisfying to know you have had an impact on a student’s achievement, or having helped them reach their capabilities.”

The students who perform independent research have other advantages in the job market, too.

“If you’re an employer and someone comes to you and they say they’ve taken the courses, but someone else has taken the courses and has done independent research or an internship, which one would you choose?” Harris said. “These experiences show that the person can work independently, that they’re self-motivated and don’t require a lot of direction.”

Harris said people get the perception that to do research, you have to be in the sciences, but any academic area is open to research or scholarly pursuit. The committee that oversees the undergraduate grants would love to see proposals from students in every discipline.  This is our ultimate goal for the university.

“We have a student in music, Zachary Ray, who has an original composition that he’s done, and he’s going to Washington, D.C., to record it; we have a student studying comets at an observatory in Texas; a student studying nanodiamonds; and a student working with street art in the Clarion community.  It’s not just science – it’s for any student,” Harris said. “Every year after reading these proposals, I am more impressed with our students and I continue to be amazed at the quality of their scholarly pursuits.”

 “Clarion gives these kids the opportunity to perform undergraduate research, but they have to take advantage of it,” he said.

Harris is one of 12 members of the Undergraduate Grant Review Committee, who represent most of the disciplines at the university. They assess students’ grant proposals based on clarity, feasibility, whether they can complete it, and justifiability of the budget. Awards were presented to:

  • Luke Lutkus, Imperial  – “Testing purity of nanodiamonds using conductive atomic force microscopy”

  • Olivia Felton, Davidsville – “Developing phonological awareness skills in preschoolers using a weekly summer camp”

  • Christy Logue, Clarion – “Generating community involvement through street art”

  • Zachary Ray, Franklin – “Conversations” (original music composition)

  • Liana Thies, Tarentum; Elizabeth Koziell, Pittsburgh; and Donald Vaccaro, Manalapan, N.J. – “Curation, identification and analysis of material culture from the state road ripple site (36C152)”

  • Sarah Newhard, Lenkerville; Gabriella Oglietti, New Castle; and Lauren Graham, Erie – Spatial analysis of the Hopkins farm site (36F03)”

  • Stacey Roy, Punxsutawney; and Joshua Ward, North Warren – “Exploration of SEM from an art perspective”

  • Kyra Coleman, Carlisle; Annalise Sonney, Tidioute; and Mackenzie Lenhart, Mercer – “Attending the 48thNational Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (Milwaukee, Wisc.)”

  • Dylan Alu, Pipersville – “The infalling comets of the star system 49 Ceti”

  • Allison Zeiler, Dallas, Pa. – “What’s in a paw print? Are our pets potentially pathogenic? Analysis of incidence of Staphylococcus aureus in domestic pets”

  • Stephanie Biedka, Pulaski; and Corbyn Minich, New Bethlehem – “Biochemical analysis of a novel UPRE via a B-galactosidase assay”

  • Daniel Wilson, Harrisburg; David Brooker, Marble; and Keith Luthuli, Slickville – “NS3 as a mechanism for apoptosis in bluetongue virus infected vero cells”

  • Malavika Vemulapalli, Munirka, New Delhi – “Identifying anti-host effector proteins in the opportunistic emerging human pathogen Chromobacterium violaceum”

  • Jenna Parson, Shippenville; and Thomas Pisarchick, Edinboro – “Analysis of Saccharomyces cerevisiae mitochondrial protein respose to 2,4-dinitrophenol”

  • Brianna Henry, Harrisburg; Rachael Berry, Reno; Samantha Harvey, Gibsonia; and Barry McGinnis, Oil City – “Effects of the herbicide Atrazine on responses to chemical cues in the crayfish species Orconectes virilis”

  • Ruma Chatterji, Clarion – “Impact of Bisphenol A (BPA), an environmental estrogen, on zebra fish anxiety”

  • Dustin DeFrancisis and Annie Fischer, both of Butler – “Quantifying ranavirus infection among hellbender populations in western Pennsylvania”

  • Nick Hepfl, Emlenton – “Quantifying Batachochytrium dendrobatids among eastern hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis) in western Pennsylvania”

  • Phillip Agosti, St. Mary’s; Brittany Overlock, Karns City – “Influence of mycorrhizal fungi on ferm spore generation”

  • Patrick Sheehan, Hanover; Michelle Clay, Prospect; Kevin Hackenberg, Beavertown; Matthew Edmondson, Marienville; and Sam Geyer, Pittsburgh – “Development of a novel detection method for Batrachochytrium dendrobatids”

  • Shane Halloran, McVeytown, and Ryan Zimmerman, Butler – “Rescue of growth defect in the YLR001 gene due to a 2,4-Dinitrophenol”

  • Marcus Kehoe, Franklin, and Marishika Wright, Steelton – “Cell stress: Analyzing the relationship or ERAD and UPR”

  • Jessica Gruver, Fairmount City; Amanda Schultz, Bridgeville; Kristin Selker, Shippenville; and Monica Miller, Schuylkill Haven – “Assessment of bacterial biofilm formation on contact lens cases”

  • Madison Stahr, Johnstown; Brianna Henry, Harrisburg; and Devin Mendez, Oil City – “Assessing the effects of disinfectants on the microbial communities of spotted salamanders”

  • Jacob Werner, Erie; Aaron Johnson, Moon Township; Patrick Sheehan, Hanover; Christopher Kenyon, Duncansville; Leah Stout, Mt. Pleasant; Sean Quinn, East Stroudsburg; Megan Donlick, Clarion; and Meghana Shetty, Glenshaw – “Researching the effects of stromal cells on the differentiation of hematopoietic stem cells and neurons”

  • Shannon Berrier, Pulaski, and Matthew Bauer, Clarion – “Synthesis of silicon oxide nanowires”

  • Blayze Stefaniak, Saltsburg, and Ryo Ogura, Tokyo – “Economic growth around the world”

  • Kristin Sariano, Halifax – “Consumers’ perceptions regarding sustainable certifications

  • Darren Young, Millerstown, and Jeffery Donor, Waterford – “A bipartisan solution to funding public higher education in Pennsylvania”

Clarion University is the high-achieving, nationally recognized, comprehensive university that delivers a personal and challenging academic experience.

Last Updated 1/11/21