At Niagara University, students have the rare opportunity to conduct their own original research as undergraduates. Their research projects are conducted under the close, yearlong tutelage of NU professors and showcased at the annual undergraduate research conference, which is sponsored by the university's honors program.
This year's conference, held April 17, featured more than 90 poster presentations on display inside the Castellani Art Museum, along with panel discussions on several research topics.
Among the many research accomplishments by NU undergraduates were the award-winning creation of mobile applications to prevent distracted driving, developments in fabricating molecules to better fight cancer, a new theory of algae growth in Lake Erie, a promising novel approach to fighting crime, and an in-depth analysis of lawsuits surrounding concussions in the National Football League.
Details of the aforementioned projects are below:
•Two research projects aimed at reducing distracted driving included "The Safe Answer" by sophomore Jonathan Sandonato and exchange student Muhammet Bakan, and "Distraction-Free Driving" by freshman Michael Crockett and Bakan. These students received grants from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to develop their competition-winning ideas to make driving safer. Both projects established mobile applications that control the use of smartphones while operating a vehicle.
•Sophomore Zachary Mariani pieced together a complex biochemistry research project, "Tuning Chemoselectivity Toward an Affordable Synthetic Approach to Aurantioclavine," which was fascinating. The focus of this research was to find a way to chemically alter tryptamine as an affordable synthetic option to aurantioclavine, a drug used in cancer treatment. Sophomore Janine Cubello's research, "Cyclic L-Tryptophan-Based Building Blocks for the Synthesis of Medically Relevant Complex Molecules," focused on altering molecules in the hopes of similar results.
•Senior Kimberly Alexander's research is titled "Effect of Invasive Zebra Mussels (Dreissena spp.) on Vertical Mixing of Nutrients and Phytoplankton in Lake Erie." Her focus was on a new theory she and her adviser have developed regarding how mussels in Lake Erie impact phosphorus concentrations that lead to toxic algae growth. In conducting her research, Alexander even built her own lake-bottom water-sampling device and deployed it from a research boat on the lake.
•Senior Krista Dean created a research project titled "NFL Concussion Settlement and Case Law Surrounding Traumatic Brain Injury." Dean is a political science major whose timely research analyzed the lawsuit filed by former NFL players regarding traumatic brain injuries.
•Alexander Carruthers, a junior economics major, conducted research to "investigate the rationality of criminals in response to changing economic variables over time." Carruthers is specifically looking at the city of Chicago and the proximity of crime to a police precinct. He said he believes geographical location when dealing with crime will help prevent it, and hopes his research will help lead to new ways to lower crime rates.
•One of the most impressive products from this year's conference was senior Emily Bork's honors thesis, "Women Writers of Post-Civil War Spain: The Clandestine Voice of Women as Subversive Rebellion against Francoism." This 75-page literary analysis - written completely in Spanish - focused on women rejecting social restrictions forced on them by having a voice through literature. When she graduates from Niagara University in May, Bork will attend law school at William and Mary.
Dr. Michael Barnwell, associate professor of philosophy and director of the honors program, noted the quality of this year's showcase impressed him. He said, "Students here at Niagara University have the unique opportunity to conduct their own original research while working closely with a professor. This is an opportunity that students at many other schools do not get until they enter graduate school (if even then). And this year's conference shows that our students are succeeding in such high-level research while still undergraduates."
By the time Niagara University students are seniors, nearly half are engaged in research with their professors. According to a national survey, that is almost double the rate reported by students at nearly 600 colleges and universities throughout the U.S.
To learn more about Niagara University, visit www.niagara.edu.