Susquehanna Students Present at National Research Conference
Published on April 24, 2014
A total of 29 Susquehanna University students recently attended the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) at the University of Kentucky to present their research and reap other benefits.
The areas of specialty by Susquehanna students were varied, from biology and chemistry to political science. All have taken full advantage of the availability and breadth of research opportunities provided by the university. Student participants from Susquehanna far outnumbered those attending from its peer institutions.
“NCUR was a tremendous experience,” said Alysha Melnyk, a senior majoring in biology. “One of the unique things about the science program at Susquehanna is that we do have to do research, and we have the opportunity to travel somewhere and interact with other people about our research. And any sort of public speaking experience is good to have before you graduate and get out into the real world.”
NCUR and its affiliated colleges and universities share a focus on providing undergraduate research opportunities for their faculty and students. Susquehanna fully supports students interested in going by providing full funding for the trip, plus a meal stipend.
“Many schools don’t commit the resources as Susquehanna does. A lot of schools restrict the number, too,” said M.L. Klotz, associate professor of psychology at Susquehanna. “We want our students to be engaged in scholarship and don’t want anyone to miss out on going to a conference.”
Susquehanna has been sending students and faculty to NCUR since the early 2000s and students from eight different disciplines presented their research this year. The conference also gives students an opportunity to have their work reviewed by faculty from other universities, a prerequisite for gaining an invitation to the conference.
“It’s refereed and not everyone gets accepted,” Klotz said. “Proposals are reviewed by faculty from other institutions and chosen based on the value of the scholarship.”
Several of the student research projects involved locally significant findings, which have a greater national importance as well. Melnyk is working on a project with long-range local implications in the ecology of the soil in the area of the underground mine fire in Centralia, Pa. Melnyk, from Mohnton, Pa., looked at the change of bacteria and noted the bacteria seem to have adapted to the highly sulfuric environment as the fire continues to burn and spread. She began work on her project early in her academic career and said she’s excited to see the results it yields.
Senior biology major John S. Panas, of Camp Hill, Pa., studied the abundance of brook trout in tributary streams in the Loyalsock Creek watershed before and after the flooding that hit the area from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in 2011. The flooding decimated the brook trout populations, particularly the younger fish, which could not survive the stronger water flows. But the good news is the smaller class fish seem to be returning thanks to less competition.
Panas hopes for a better understanding of all the factors that contribute to fish population after significant natural events. He also took an opportunity to meet graduate school advisers from the University of Kentucky while on the trip, an important step as he considers life after graduating from Susquehanna.
“This is a study on natural resource management,” Panas said. “The events, like the flood in 2011, are going to become more frequent and more severe with global climate change, so understanding how we can regulate populations and set regulations for angling harvests can be very important because brook trout are the only native (trout) to Pennsylvania. Protecting them is important because they are very good indicators for water quality.”