Rome wins poster contest for Alaska research; library adds to prizes

David Kubarek
January 22, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — During a 2017 educational-based trip to Alaska that was focused on glacial systems, Courtney Rome began studying something that wasn’t on the syllabus.

Rome, a senior majoring in geography at Penn State, noticed that natives had a much different approach to grocery shopping than she was used to. Residents facing much higher prices for produce and other items at the grocery store than residents of the lower 48 states were opting instead to take larger roles in procuring their own food outside of the grocery store.

Alaskans, she said, were growing a lot of their produce and catching a lot of salmon.

That initial observation prompted Rome to survey Alaskans and Centre County residents and compare the data, which she then fashioned into a first-place-winning poster in the annual EMS Undergraduate Poster Exhibition.

“In Alaska, grocery store prices are very high. People grow their own produce. They go salmon fishing and freeze it for the winter,” Rome said. "That’s a big part of how they get their food and I think that’s so interesting because we don’t have to do that here. I don’t have time to grow things in a garden or go fishing. I thought that was really interesting and I wanted to know more about how that affects their daily life.”

Rome surveyed five key areas of food acquisition: community collaboration, level of enjoyment, subsistence, seasonality and time, for her poster “Food for Thought: Differences of Geographic Food Habits Between Alaska and the Lower 48.”

The results came as little surprise to Rome, who suspected Alaskans would be much more connected to their food supply.

“I went into it thinking that people in Alaska spent more time getting their food and enjoyed that process more because they’re able to have that connection with the outdoors,” Rome said. “I was excited because that turned out to be correct.”

She was surprised about one thing.

As she surveyed “many other great posters,” Rome said she was almost certain she wouldn’t win, despite help from advisers Michael Nassry, assistant research professor of geography, and Denice Wardrop, interim director of engaged scholarship. But, when she did, earning the $500 prize, she said it made the hard work of completing the competition worth it.

“It felt really empowering. I felt like I could succeed at anything,” Rome said. “It felt like every hour I spent on that poster was worth it.”

Library Award makes debut

Anna Whitaker, a senior majoring in geobiology, won the inaugural Library Research Award, which came with a $100 prize. Whitaker won for her poster “Environmental Gradient Analysis in the Upper Ordovician,” with help from project adviser Mark Patzkowsky, professor of geosciences.

The award was created by Penn State University Libraries' Fletcher L. Byrom Earth and Mineral Sciences Library to promote exceptional sourcing of information among participants at the competition. It supports the University Libraries' advocacy for careful background research and information evaluation, also recognized each spring at the University-wide Undergraduate Exhibition through the University Libraries Award for Information Literacy.

Other award winners included:

Second Place 

Winner: Shawn Murdzek (senior, meteorology and atmospheric science)

Poster title: “Assimilating Differential Reflectivity Columns into the High Resolution Rapid Refresh Using Latent Heating Forcing”

Project advisers: David Dowell and Therese Ladwig

Third Place 

Winners: Luba Hristova (junior, geography), Danielle Ruffe (senior, geography and anthropology), and Yu Zhong (senior, geography)

Poster title: “Fresno, California: Drought Impacts on Agriculture”

Project adviser: Guido Cervone

Freshman Award

Winners: Elliott Zou and Jack Chen (first-year students, Earth sciences) 

Poster title: “Creatures Once Lived Only on the Roof of the World: 13-14 Million Years Old Tibetan Animal Fossils and Their Owner”

Project adviser: Chris House

Phi Kappa Phi Underclassmen Outstanding Research Potential Award

Winners: Natalie Cummings (first-year student, materials science and engineering [MatSE], Ryan Spangler (first-year student, MatSE), Ronson Gay, (first-year student, energy business and finance)

Poster title: “Novel Ceramics for Enhanced Optical Qualities for the Thirty Meter Telescope”

Project adviser: Allen Kimel

Student Choice Award

Winner: Hannah Patel (sophomore, Earth science and policy)

Poster title: “Root Systems of the Future: Sustainably Adapting Plants to Climate Change”

Project adviser: Hannah Schneider

  • Shawn Murdzek, left, won Second Place in the 2017 College of Earth and Mineral Sciences’ Undergraduate Poster Exhibition.

    Shawn Murdzek, left, won Second Place in the 2017 College of Earth and Mineral Sciences’ Undergraduate Poster Exhibition.

    IMAGE: Penn State
  • Shawn Murdzek won Second Place in the 2017 College of Earth and Mineral Sciences’ Undergraduate Poster Exhibition.

    Shawn Murdzek won Second Place in the 2017 College of Earth and Mineral Sciences’ Undergraduate Poster Exhibition.

    IMAGE: Penn State
  • Luba Hristova, left, Yu Zhong and Danielle Ruffe won Third Place in the 2017 College of Earth and Mineral Sciences’ Undergraduate Poster Exhibition.

    Luba Hristova, left, Yu Zhong and Danielle Ruffe won Third Place in the 2017 College of Earth and Mineral Sciences’ Undergraduate Poster Exhibition.

    IMAGE: Penn State
  • Anna Whitaker, won the Library Research Award in the 2017 College of Earth and Mineral Sciences’ Undergraduate Poster Exhibition.

    Anna Whitaker, won the Library Research Award in the 2017 College of Earth and Mineral Sciences’ Undergraduate Poster Exhibition.

    IMAGE: Penn State
  • Anna Whitaker discusses her poster with Guido Cervone, associate professor in the Department of Geography and Institute for CyberScience.

    Anna Whitaker discusses her poster with Guido Cervone, associate professor in the Department of Geography and Institute for CyberScience.

    IMAGE: Penn State
  • Jack Chen, left, and Elliott Zou won the Freshman Award in the 2017 Earth and Mineral Sciences’ Undergraduate Poster Exhibition.

    Jack Chen, left, and Elliott Zou won the Freshman Award in the 2017 Earth and Mineral Sciences’ Undergraduate Poster Exhibition.

    IMAGE: Penn State
  • Ryan Spangler, Natalie Cummings and Ronson Gay (not pictured) won the Phi Kappa Phi Underclassmen Outstanding Research Potential Award in the 2017 College of Earth and Mineral Sciences’ Undergraduate Poster Exhibition.

    Ryan Spangler, Natalie Cummings and Ronson Gay (not pictured) won the Phi Kappa Phi Underclassmen Outstanding Research Potential Award in the 2017 College of Earth and Mineral Sciences’ Undergraduate Poster Exhibition, which was presented by Caitlin Ting, interim director of the University Fellowships Office, right.

    IMAGE: Penn State
  • Hannah Patel won Student Choice in the 2017 College of Earth and Mineral Sciences’ Undergraduate Poster Exhibition.

    Hannah Patel won Student Choice in the 2017 College of Earth and Mineral Sciences’ Undergraduate Poster Exhibition.

    IMAGE: Penn State
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Last Updated January 23, 2018