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Waynesburg U. Annual Research Symposium offers opportunities for students

Kayla Ayers Apr 26, 2024

Every year, Waynesburg University offers students a unique opportunity to present their research at its Annual Research and Scholarly Work Symposium where the campus community is invited to attend.  

This year at the 12th Annual Symposium, a total of 35 students from various disciplines presented their research in the form of five podium presentations and 26 poster presentations. A committee of faculty and community judges determined the winners of the best oral presentation and poster presentation.

The best oral presentation was awarded to Benjamin White, a senior biomedical science major, for his project titled, “Antimicrobial Properties in Aloe vera and Plants Local to Southwest Pennsylvania.” The best poster presentation was awarded to Abigayle Geisel, a senior psychology major, and Lauren Royesky, a junior psychology major, for their project titled, “A Re-evaluation of Paranormal Beliefs and Estimated Likelihood Of Negative Life Events Following the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

The techniques and knowledge I have acquired from this experience has set me apart from my peers and other applicants for jobs post-graduation. This opportunity not only shaped me as a student and future chemist, but also as a person with my leadership skills and time management."

Madison McMonagle

“The Waynesburg University Research and Scholarly Work Symposium is an opportunity for WU students to show the community the final products of their hard work and get experience presenting and receiving feedback on their work in a welcoming atmosphere,” said Dr. Christian Hayes, assistant professor of biology and director of marine science. “The symposium also provides an opportunity for the Waynesburg community to learn about the various research going on around campus and support the students and everything they have accomplished. This year a total of 35 students from a wide variety of disciplines across campus presented oral and poster presentations to a group of over 140 community members.”

Students presented projects from an array of fields including psychology, environmental science, political science, chemistry, biology, history, exercise science and more.

For the past few years, Madison McMonagle, a senior pharmaceutical science major, has been diligently working on her research project titled, “Cytochrome P450 biocatalysis in natural product synthesis by methods of directed evolution.”

“Conducting research here at Waynesburg University has opened so many doors for me,” shared McMonagle, who co-presented the project with Schaelee Guy, a senior chemistry major. "I have learned an exceptional amount in the research lab, even things that I couldn't picture being offered in undergraduate courses. The techniques and knowledge I have acquired from this experience has set me apart from my peers and other applicants for jobs post-graduation. This opportunity not only shaped me as a student and future chemist, but also as a person with my leadership skills and time management.”

Though McMonagle’s research project was not part of any of her course requirements, the time and effort she put in to her research was not any less. She shared that in addition to time spent during her academic semesters, she also dedicated last summer to work in the University’s lab with Dr. Takashi Suyama on the project, where she was able to make significant progress. Being able to share what she’s learned so far through the symposium was a great chance to showcase her hard work.

“Not everything that I do in the lab gets to be shared with others, and many don't know what research happens on campus,” she added. “This symposium provides that opportunity to allow other students to learn about these important topics and ways they could potentially get involved as well. This opportunity is also important to add to a resume. As I have spent time speaking with employers, I have learned that these sorts of opportunities are crucial to take advantage of, which sometimes can be put off because of the extra work that must be done to present.”

Other students echoed McMonagle’s thoughts on the benefits the symposium presents them to learn and grow.

“I believe this program allows students to be self-driven and motivated to do their best work,” said senior biology major Alayna McKay. “Being able to plan your research, execute it under a mentor, and then present it at the symposium is a key driving step to transition into what a workplace will be like in the science field.”

McKay’s research project was titled, “Evaluation of Waynesburg University Toothbrush Bacteria and Disinfection.”

Jeremiah Cruz, a senior exercise science major, presented his research project titled, “Inhibiting Exercise-Associated Muscle Cramps Using Transient Receptor Potential Channel Agonists: A Critically Appraised Topic.”

Hannah Koty with her co-presenter and their research project
Koty (right) with co-presenter
Zoe Belknap and their poster.

"The research symposium provides an excellent opportunity for students at WU to present findings that they have worked incredibly hard to attain as well as gain valuable input, comments, and experience presenting to peers and professors," he said.

“Participating in the research symposium allowed me to have the experience of creating and presenting a poster as opposed to an oral presentation,” added Hannah Koty, a senior psychology major. “I expanded on skills taught by my professors and applied them in a research setting.”

Koty’s research project with co-presenter Zoe Belknap, a senior psychology major, titled, “Adverse Childhood Experiences and Risk-Taking Propensity as Measured by a Risk-Taking Game,” was a course requirement for their Advanced Experimental Psychology course that sparked an interest in research.

“I am grateful for the opportunities that this research has brought into my life and would like to continue pursuing a career that is research based,” she said.

Garret Kunz with research project
Kunz with his poster presentation.

For freshman environmental science major Tyler (Garret) Kunz, the opportunity to participate in research early on in his academic career has been an exciting endeavor. Kunz began working on his research project, titled “Spatial Analysis of Soil Deposition from Multiple Mine Source Point Pollution,” during his first semester as a student at Waynesburg.

“Being able to do research as a freshman has allowed me to gain experience in field work, data collection and data analysis,” said Kunz. “I’m excited to be part of a college that allows students to gain experience no matter how far along they are in their studies. Also, because of the willingness to let students start research from such a young age, I’ll be able to continue and expand this project as I grow in my own knowledge at Waynesburg University.”