July 25, 2023

Susquehanna University hosted more than 100 students at the 14th annual Landmark Research Symposium on July 20. Twenty Susquehanna students and others from several other Landmark conference colleges and universities presented their research to their undergraduate peers and faculty mentors.

“It’s important that scholars share their research with the outside world, and the Landmark Symposium gives our talented Susquehanna student researchers a chance to do just that,” said Jennifer Carter, assistant professor of physics. “Presentation and networking opportunities are crucial to preparing for our students’ future careers.”

Bethany Grove ’25, a neuroscience major from Windber, Pennsylvania, conducted her research under the mentorship of James Briggs, Susquehanna’s chair and associate professor of psychology.

“Participating in research opens doors and helps those who do it stand out from the crowd when seeking a job or graduate school placement,” Grove said. “I began research as a freshman and the experience has been so amazing that I am planning to continue until I graduate.”

The study of stress and fear

Grove and Briggs investigated the impact of stress and environmental factors on the ability to anticipate fear. As Grove explained, she used rats to investigate how stress impacts something known as the context-shift effect — the idea that performance declines when an individual shifts environments. They also compared reactions between male and female rats to determine if stress impacted them differently.

“We found that stressed male rats treated every environment like it was new. They did not pay attention to the environmental cues around them, unlike the nonstressed male rats who demonstrated a context-shift effect as expected,” Grove said. “However, both stressed and nonstressed female rats demonstrated a context-shift, meaning that stress did not impact female rats in the same way that it impacted the male rats.”

Following graduation, Grove hopes to become a therapist in a clinical setting where she can help individuals experiencing issues related to behavioral and mental health.

“My research experience is teaching me so many valuable skills that are preparing me to enter the psychology field,” Grove said. “Also, I have formed a relationship with my professor who has supported me and has given me so many amazing opportunities to learn and grow not only as a student, but also as a person.”