Student Discoveries Unveiled at 13th Annual Student Research Conference

Hands-on experiential learning is a cornerstone of the educational experience at Elmira College. That includes research, which students get to showcase each spring during the College’s Student Research Conference.

The 13th annual event, held May 24, 2023 in Cowles Hall, featured 18 research projects involving 26 students, with topics ranging from the genetics of neurodevelopmental disabilities, best practices for classroom teachers, the challenges international student-athletes face, and soil erosion.

In addition to the research on display around the Cowles Hall Rotunda, talks were given about three of the research topics. Jazmine Knox ‘26’s “Slabtown, Elmira’s African American Community” included a lookback at John W. Jones, who escaped slavery, settled in Elmira, and assisted hundreds of fugitives as an Underground Railroad Station Master; the Green Pastures Jazz Club that attracted notable musicians to the area; and Ernie Davis, who grew up in Elmira and went on to become the first African American recipient of the Heisman Trophy.

Following her presentation, a few shared their personal experiences going to Green Pastures. The first question asked was why she wanted to research Slabtown, the Elmira Eastside neighborhood originally settled by freed African Americans and named for the housing construction that used one-foot-wide wooden planks.

“I felt like it was my responsibility as an African American from Elmira, to show how Elmira had a lively African American community,” she said.

The other presentations featured Oscar Muñoz Trinidad '23’s “Difficulties that International Student-Athletes Face in College in the United States of America” and Julia Ambrose ‘23’s “Identification of Functional Interactors of hRad9b.”

Students said the Student Research Conference experience helped refine their presentation skills and to think more critically about their research.

“Some people had great questions that Professor Bidwell and I hadn’t discussed or thought about previously,” said Alexa Sitzer ’25, an Adolescence Education: Chemistry major. “With our project, we’re creating student-developed supplemental materials to use in Chemistry classes. The handouts have tips and help show students how to solve problems. One person asked us about how we will get the materials to students, forcing us to consider those logistics more carefully.”

“Presenting at the Student Research Conference helped me prepare for the research conference I attended in the Bahamas,” said Jessica Yesensky ’26, adding that she refined her elevator speech based on the conversations she had with the other students and faculty. Following the Student Research Conference at Elmira, Yesensky traveled to and presented at the Fourth Joint Symposium at the Gerace Research Center in San Salvador, Bahamas.

The annual Student Research Conference is sponsored by the Office of Academic Affairs and is organized by faculty volunteers Dr. Ping Zheng, Dr. Kelly Kane, and Dr. Abbi Paulson.

A panel of faculty judges evaluated the quality, organization, content, and clarity of the student presentations. They awarded the following prizes:

  • Best Research Talk: Julia Ambrose ’23
  • Best Social Sciences and Liberal Arts Poster Presentation: Isabella DeAmelia '24 and Lindsey Smith '24
  • Best Natural Sciences Poster Research Project: Paige Stilts ’23
  • Best Natural Sciences Poster Presentation: Christian Zwierlein ‘24

The full line-up of student research topics included:

  • James Blair '23; The Effects of Reacting to Altruism
  • Isabella DeAmelia '24 and Lindsey Smith '24; Punitive or Restorative?: Reflections on Current Teachers’ Classroom Management Practices
  • Grace Whiffen '24: Feasibility of Solar Panels at Elmira College
  • Chris Jones '25; What Creates a Dynasty in the MLB
  • Jessica Yesensky '26 & Alleney Klunk '24; San Salvador Island Erosion Vulnerability Index
  • Calli Vocke '23; Food and Diet in Guatemala
  • Paige Stilts '23; Comparison of Known and Potential Interactions to SARS-CoV2 Main Protease
  • Victoria Behun '26, MacKenzie Brown '26, Michael Connor '26, & Owen Mascaro '26: “Zero-Waste” Single-Use Plastics Produced from Algal Kappa-Carrageenan
  • Alexa Sitzer '25; Integrating Student Developed Community Based Learning Activities into General Chemistry
  • Ryan Hardy '23: Determining Effect of Isometric Organic Solvents on Enzymatic Activity in Aqueous Organic Solvent Mixtures
  • Nathan Romano '25: Using WIMP Analysis to Quantify Bacterial Populations in Local Waterway
  • Christian Zwierlein '23: Using C.elegans to Study The Relationship Between The mthf-1 Gene and Neurodevelopmental Disorders
  • Ellie Zenner '24: Development of an Arduino-Based RefrigeratorFreezer Alarm Using a ESP8266 Microprocessor
  • Mason Davis '24 & Trevor Henneman: Isolation of Blue Pigmented C-Phycocyanin Phycobiliprotein from Spirulina Biomass
  • Randy Cavazza & Trevor Henneman: Utilization of GCMS for Rapid Assessment of Humulone and Lupulone Content in Hops to Assist Regional Breweries, Hop Growers and the Local Hop Growers Guild

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