Students and professors congregate in the newly renovated Suter Science Center for the poster session of the annual Spring STEM Celebration. Approximately 90 students from several departments exhibited their research results. (Photo by Jack Rutt)

Annual Spring STEM Celebration features pizza, posters and trivia with profs in the renovated Suter Science Center

In conducting research, Sam Stoner says he’s learned diligence, time management, and patience – all qualities that the environmental sustainability major and business administration minor says will pay off as he works toward his goal of becoming a business owner.

And in participating in the Spring STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Celebration poster session in the Suter Science Center, Stoner practiced a few more practical skills he will need: graphic design and public speaking.

Stoner and partner Sarah Carpenter were winners of the upperclass division for their research titled “Bergton Stream Restoration: Stream Health Assessment Using Macroinvertebrate Sampling.”

The poster session, which is preceded by an informal multidisciplinary science quiz-off and pizza feast, offers students “a chance to share their research with fellow students, faculty, and the larger EMU community in a fun, social setting,” says physics professor Daniel King, who judged the contest with biology professor Greta Ann Herin.

Poster sessions are commonly held at scientific conferences, in which “scientists and students present and explain their own findings to those who are interested but are not necessarily experts in that field,” said King, who is also an assistant professor in the MA in biomedicine program.

Posters were judged on quality of experimental design, quality of research analysis, and quality of presentation, said Herin, also with the biomedicine program. “The presentation included the appearance, accuracy and clarity of the poster, as well as the presenters’ knowledge and explanation of the project.”

Coursework and independent study represented

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Sam Stoner (middle) poses with the prize-winning poster alongside research partner Sarah Carpenter, while Ryan Keiner enjoys the show. (Photo by Jack Rutt)

EMU’s poster session featured more than 90 participants showcasing research from a variety of courses such as electronics, general chemistry, organic chemistry, statistics for natural sciences, and environmental toxicology. Students in Herin’s advanced human anatomy class (BIO 437) also contributed 3-D visualizations of body systems.

Carpenter and Stoner were among several students presenting water quality research in the nearby Bergton area as part of a two-year multidisciplinary National Wildlife Federation grant. Biology professors Jim Yoder and Doug Graber Neufeld are supervising teams of environmental sustainability students working on water quality monitoring and stream restoration in two tributaries of the Shenandoah River and the Chesapeake Bay, with other facets of the project involving digital media and graduate peacebuilding students.

Students in professor Matt Siderhurst’s general chemistry class focused on phytoremediation of a variety of plants, including carrots, forsythia, corn, cattails, and radishes.

Professor Owen Byer’s statistics class explored the widest range of topics, including electronic devices owned by students; the fuel economy of cars driven by EMU faculty and staff versus those driven by James Madison University faculty and staff; cereal shelf placement based on sugar and price at Food Lion and Kroger; sustainability effectiveness in EMU residence halls; and a statistical analysis of the “Settlers of Catan” game.

Two unique projects with professor Steve Cessna explored the rhetoric of science and instructional techniques in the science classroom. In their plant ecophysiology course, Hannah Chappell-Dick, Eli Wenger, and Emma Beachy analyzed plant physiology research literature for changes in the “assignment of agency.” For his biochemistry research course project, Kyle Storc investigated student comprehension and retention of biochemistry topics through the use of two-dimensional tools.

Several posters were the result of independent research that students conducted with faculty members. Camille Williams worked with biology professor Julia Halterman to analyze the effects of fermented milk supplementation on gut microbacteria in mice.

Rachel King, who will be a research assistant on Halterman’s Jeffress grant-funded research this summer, worked under chemistry professor Tara Kishbaugh on “A Mixed Methods Approach to Green Chemistry Knowledge Gains in the Organic Laboratory.” Kishbaugh also worked with Ben Stern, who studied the effects of barium toxicity on zebrafish.

Underclass winner links research to upcoming internship

Amanda Williams and Nader Alqahtani paired up to win the underclass division with their project that compared phytoremediation between native and invasive species.

For Williams, a first-year biology and secondary education major, the research project reminded her of how much she cares about the environment.

“I live in the wetlands in Delaware, surrounded by the plants we were experimenting on, cattail and phragmites,” she said, adding that she’ll continue her research in a summer internship with the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. “I think it’s important to understand the possible negative effects of invasive species, but also to know that sometimes they are just as important as native species.”

Alqahtani, a sophomore biology major who is interested in medical research, said the hands-on learning experience “was a more fun and exciting way to learn than reading and studying.”

And the presentation? That was “the exciting part,” he said, even though English is his second language. “We were confident that we knew everything about our project and we trusted each other’s ability to make a perfect presentation … when we started presenting and I saw how well we were doing, I got comfortable and started to enjoy telling our audience about our research.”

Poster Session Winners: Upperclass Division

Jordan Leaman (right) demonstrates a keyless entry project to Jesse Parker. The system utilizes WiFi to unlock a deadbolt door.  (Photo by Jack Rutt)

1st: Bergton Stream Restoration: Stream Health Assessment Using Macroinvertebrate Sampling – Sarah Carpenter and Sam Stoner

2nd: Keyless Entry – Stephan Goertzen and Jordan Leaman

3rd: Bergton Stream Restoration: Ecological Monitoring Using Wood Turtles (Glyptemys insculpta) – Jonathan Drescher-Lehman and Ryan Keiner

Honorable Mention: An ecophysiological study determining how three different invasive evergreen vines handle the varying winter temperatures by measuring their photosynthesis, transpiration, and Fv/Fm levels – Jonathan Drescher-Lehman, Chris Miller, and Abby Pennington

Honorable Mention: The Effects of Barium Toxicity on Zebrafish (Danio rerio) – Ben Stern

Poster Session Winners: Underclass Division

1st:  Comparing Phytoremediation between Native and Invasive Species – Nader Alqahtani and Amanda Williams

2nd:  Phytoremediation in Forsythia – Tyler Denlinger and Jeremiah Robinson

3rd: Electronic Devices Owned by EMU Students – Sammy Kauffman, Josh Miller, and Roy Ruan

Honorable Mention: Phytoremediation in Various Plants – Aaron Dunmore and Kat Lehman