Student scholarship on display at Lehigh Valley Undergraduate Research Symposium

Students present research to faculty member

Penn State Lehigh Valley student Rory Rafferty, left, explains her and fellow student Ali Naqvi's research project to Associate Teaching Professor of Psychology Kevin Kelley at the campus' annual Undergraduate Research Symposium, held April 4-8. 

Credit: Corey McDonough

CENTER VALLEY, Pa. – Penn State Lehigh Valley once again demonstrated its deep commitment to student scholarship at the campus' annual Undergraduate Research Symposium, held April 4-8.

After going virtual last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the symposium returned to its traditional in-person format. This year, there were six poster presentations in the areas of STEM and arts, humanities, business, and social and behavioral sciences.

The symposium concluded Friday, April 8, with the student groups presenting their research to the campus community, as well as family and friends. Faculty and staff judges awarded first-place prizes to four presentations, and the day also included an engaging keynote speech by Penn State Schuylkill Associate Professor of Psychology and Interim Director of Academic Affairs Cory Scherer, who presented the talk, “Sex Differences in Jealousy: An Undergraduate Research Tale.”

Chancellor Tina Q. Richardson praised the students for putting so much time and energy into their respective projects, all of which were conducted with the assistance of faculty mentors.

“As chancellor, few people get to know how much I love research. When I was a faculty member, I was always engaged in research, but now I get to support research in all of its forms,” Richardson said. “For you students, undergraduate research allows you to scratch the itch of your intellectual curiosity and see where it goes. You get to be on the forefront of expanding your knowledge, and I find that very exciting. And I hope you can take that passion with you at every step of your journey.”

The four winning entries were:

  • STEM: “Investigation of Support Options Not Included in Transverse Beam Loading Simulation”: student presenters, Tobey Field, Ethan Davies and Fouad Awwad; faculty mentor, Tracey Carbonetto.
  • Arts: “Invasive Species: The Importance of Scientific Illustrations”: student presenter, Delilah Jabbour; faculty mentor, Elizabeth Flaherty.
  • Humanities, Business and Social & Behavioral Sciences: “Let’s Talk About Sex Work”: student presenters, Hannah Irwin, Drew Bartos, Fernando Gaton Bido, Hailee Foster and Makayla Wilkins; faculty mentor, David Livert.
  • Excellence in Information Literacy: “Stress Effects on Memory for Social Content”: student presenters, Justin Lebon and Hannah Irwin; faculty mentor, Livert.

The other poster presentations were:

  • “Investigating Heparin’s Ability to Reduce Stress Fiber Formation in Endothelial Cells Exposed to TNF-a”: student presenters, Ali Naqvi and Rory Rafferty; faculty mentor, Jacqueline McLaughlin.
  • “Does Depression and/or Anxiety Have an Impact on College Students’ Academic Performance?”: student presenter, Samantha Meeker; faculty mentor, Teri Kistler.

“All of the posters were phenomenal, so it wasn’t easy at all for the judges,” said McLaughlin, who served on this year’s Undergraduate Research Committee with faculty members Todd Retzlaff, Nicole Ryerson and Jeffrey Stone.

Win or lose, students stressed the satisfaction they took in pursuing and completing their research projects.

“I like that you can take your own initiative and do a project that fits your own interests instead of what’s required in our classes,” said Lebon, a senior psychology major.

“It was a lot of fun, and I’m really glad I did it,” added Meeker, a senior rehabilitation and human services major. “It was a lot more work than I expected it to be, and it definitely takes a lot of dedication to do these research projects. But it’s going to give me a good foundation for graduate school.”