More than 300 students share their work at the 2019 Undergraduate Exhibition

Sean Yoder
April 22, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Hundreds of students from Penn State’s campuses across the Commonwealth gathered April 17 at University Park for the annual Undergraduate Exhibition.

In Alumni and Heritage halls in the HUB-Robeson Center, as well as in the Flex Theater, Penn State undergraduates had the opportunity to showcase to the public their research and artistry.

For graduating seniors, the event is among a list of “lasts” this spring: last classes as an undergraduate, last times with friends and colleagues, last time spent with research that may define an academic or career path. Many students have a personal connection with their research and have followed a line of inquiry stemming from their life experiences.

Regina McCoy traveled from Penn State Harrisburg to present her poster, “Isometric Handgrip Training as an Alternative Approach to Regulating Blood Pressure in African American Men.” The senior kinesiology major hopes to become a respiratory physical therapist.

Her research while at Penn State Harrisburg’s School of Behavioral Sciences and Education focused on whether hand exercises can have positive effects on blood pressure, and possibly prevent strokes. Two members of her family — an uncle and great grandmother — have both suffered strokes.

McCoy, whose adviser is David Moore, said those that adhered to the protocol did appear to show a positive change in blood pressure, but that she hopes the study gains more participants for the future.

Over in Alumni Hall in the Social and Behavior Sciences section of the Exhibition, senior James Gardner was explaining how a change in a city’s form of government might affect later voter turnout. His research was conducted under the direction of his thesis supervisor, Michael Berkman.

Gardner, a political science major, said as a child he would often attend city council meetings with his father in their hometown of Williamsport. This, he said, helped him develop a deep interest in local politics.

The city in 2017 and 2018 probed the idea of switching its type of government to one of either mayor-council or manager-council. While both proposed new options for Williamsport were ultimately defeated on the ballot in November 2018, Gardner looked at the data and found that a mayor-council form may bring out more voters compared to a manager-council model.

Hundreds of students like Gardner and McCoy presented their academic efforts on Wednesday evening in the form of a research poster, oral presentation or artistic performance.

Alan Rieck, associate vice president and associate dean of Undergraduate Education, said, for him, the day was inspirational.

“We had a poetry reader (Hope Weidemann), and everybody I talked to that heard her was moved,” Rieck said. “We had some projects that are just mind boggling for undergraduate students. It’s a real testament to the quality of the students and the quality of the faculty that are working with them.

“I think one of the huge benefits of being at Penn State is the types of opportunities to do research that is significant, to participate in experiences that are life changing. Not only your life, but the lives of the people you’re working with," said Rieck.

Hope Weidemann holds a microphone

Hope Weidemann, a nursing student at Penn State Altoona, read three of her poems during a presentation at the Undergraduate Exhibition.

IMAGE: Steve Tressler

This was the first time the Undergraduate Exhibition featured a segment for Engagement Experiences, which was held earlier in the day in Alumni Hall.

There, students such as Gitau Kimani showed how they were impacting local communities. Kimani and his fellow researchers — under the direction of Alfonso Mejia — shared the results of their study of 100- and 500-year inundation flows of nearby Williamsport, Sunbury, Muncy and Selinsgrove. Their research, Kimani said, was intended to show possible flooding hazard and exposure of those areas, information that could be crucial to the agricultural and other sectors.

Students participating in the Undergraduate Exhibition and Engagement Experience Poster Exhibition were visited by at least two volunteer judges, and in some cases a special Penn State Libraries judge, who then submitted scores to make students eligible for several awards.

The following awards were announced at a ceremony on April 20 at the Palmer Museum of Art.

Category Awards

Arts and Humanities

First Place
  • Sarah McKenna, College of the Liberal Arts, "Analyzing 'Detrimental Psychological Harm': Social Science Evidence and Segregation in the Supreme Court Post-1950"


First Place
  • Cody Kubicki, College of Engineering, "Fluid Dynamics Study of an Implantable Fontan Circulation Assist Device"
Second Place
  • Cara Pearson, College of Engineering, "Determining the Efficiency of Emboli Detection with Doppler Ultrasonography"
Third Place
  • Tice Ryan Harkins (tie), Eberly College of Science, "Development of a Micro-Particle Image Velocimetry Platform to Study Thrombosis In Vitro"
  • Avery Wang (tie), Eberly College of Science, "Improving Breast MRI Quality Utilizing Ultra-High Dielectric Constant Materials at 3 Tesla"

Health and Life Sciences

First Place
  • Szu-Yu Kuan (tie), Eberly College of Science, "Investigating the VNTR in the human Dopamine Transporter Gene (DAT1)"
  • Emily Snell (tie), Eberly College of Science, "Activity of Tetrazole-based trans-Translation Inhibitors in Bacillus anthracis"
  • Kelly Vanden (tie), "Methacholine as an agent for inducing labored breathing in an adolescent mouse model"

Physical Sciences

First Place
  • Shirin Gul Zaidi, Eberly College of Science, "Modeling the Dynamical Evolution of Saturn's E ring Following a Cryovolcanic Eruption on Enceladus"
Second Place
  • Garrett Evans, College of Agricultural Sciences, "Evaluating adaptation to climate in Acer rubrum populations to understand responses to climate change"
Third Place
  • Hunter Kauffman, College of Agricultural Sciences, "Effects of Anthropogenic Noise on Nesting Time and Fledging Success of Songbirds"

Social and Behavioral Sciences

First Place
  • Aidan James Peat, Eberly College of Science, "Adolescent social stress and genetic background alter morphine sensitization in C57BL/6J and BALB/cJ mice"
Second Place
  • Karina Grullon Perez, Eberly College of Science, "The Pros and Cons of Perceived HIV-Related Stigma in Younger and Older Adolescents in Botswana"
Third Place
  • Caitlin Surgeon (tie), Eberly College of Science, "Examining the acceptability of using sipIT digital tools to increase fluid consumption in kidney stone patients"
  • Centia Thomas (tie), College of the Liberal Arts, "The Relation Between Perceived and Population Based Environmental Risk and Maternal Stress"

Oral Presentation and Performance

First Place

  • Gage Patrick James Kroljic, College of Arts and Architecture, "Sounds of the Middle East"

Second Place

  • Dixin Xie, College of Health and Human Development, "Psychosocial risk factors of food insecurity in Puerto Rican Adults from baseline to 5-year follow up"


  • Alyssa Bronstein, James Mallon, Lauren Spinelli, Jack Spinelli, Bryce Starner, Smeal College of Business, "Community Based Learning or Professional Experiences"

University Fellowships and Phi Kappa Phi Peter T. Luckie Award for Outstanding Research by a Junior

Science and Engineering

  • Ryan Santilli, Yoshitaka Shibata, John Williamson III, Eberly College of Science, "Developing Optimized Protein Molecular Weight Markers Applicable to SDS-PAGE and Western Blot Assays"

Social and Behavioral Sciences

  • Emily Blaker, Fayette, The Eberly Campus, "The Effects of School Stress on Student-Athlete GPA and Sport Enjoyment"

Gerard A. Hauser Award

  • Kaylee Kishbaugh, College of Agricultural Sciences, "Evaluating the Safety of Duck Prosciutto"

University Libraries’ Undergraduate Research Award: Excellence in Information Literacy

John Sr. and Kimlyn Patishnock Grand Prize

  • Cuyler Luck, Eberly College of Science, "Identifying Drug-Drug Interactions Between Experimental Antimalarials"

First Place

  • Brady Houtz, College of Engineering, "Effects of elevated beat rate on the hemodynamics of the Penn State pediatric ventricular assist device"

Second Place

  • Stefan Horgas, College of Information Sciences and Technology, "Virtual Teams Review: An Exploration of the Multifaceted Nature of Team Virtuality"

Third Place

  • Marisa Vanness, College of the Liberal Arts, "Women's Protest and Health in the International Sphere"

Honorable Mentions

  • Peyton Loomis, Kristin Newvine, Altoona, "Princesses and Princessing: The Sociology of Making Magic"
  • Hannah Griffin, College of the Liberal Arts, "Influences of Italian Colonial Media on Perceptions of Immigrants Today"
  • Kushagra Kumar, Eberly College of Science, "Testing Potential Inhibitors of the Sigma E Pathway in Escherichia Coli"
  • Philip Zachariah, Eberly College of Science, "A Fly on the Wall: Bridging the Gap Between Penn State Research Laboratories and the Student Community"

Though many students will graduate and move on to the next phases of their lives, first-years, sophomores and juniors will take up new laboratory and research positions in the coming year or delve into an artistic project. Others will continue their research. Applications for the Undergraduate Exhibition typically open in late January and are due in March.

The Research Opportunities for Undergraduates program is part of Penn State Undergraduate Education, the academic administrative unit that provides leadership and coordination for University-wide programs and initiatives in support of undergraduate teaching and learning at Penn State. Learn more about Undergraduate Education at Sign up for the Undergraduate Education Headlines for the latest news.

Last Updated June 21, 2019