Mansfield University Biology and Chemistry Students Excel at State Conference

Mansfield, PA – Ten Mansfield University undergraduate researchers presented 9 poster and platform presentations during the 50th annual Commonwealth of University Biologists’ (CPUB) conference April 12-13th 2019 held at Edinboro University, with three presentations winning awards. Their faculty mentors, Dr. Elaine Farkas (Chemistry and Physics), Dr. Jeanne Kagle (Biology), and Dr. Kristen Long (Biology) also attended the meeting. The annual meeting is a research conference for all PASSHE biology programs. Adrianna Vaskas (Wyalusing, PA) received the CPUB Outstanding Senior award for Mansfield University. Vaskas, advised by Dr. Long, gave a platform presentation in the category of Cell and Molecular Biology titled “The effect of curcumin on pancreatic cancer.” Also in this category Krystal Lefever (Ephrata, PA), advised by Dr. Kagle, won first place for her poster titled “Antimicrobial activity of cinnamon essential oil and tylosin on Pseudomonas aeruginosa separately and in combination.” Tyler Walters (Danville, PA), advised by Dr. Long, won second place for his poster titled “Protective effects of cranberry juice on alcohol-related liver damage.” Additional presentations in this category included: Jason Chilson (Towanda, PA, advised by Drs. Farkas and Long) presented a poster titled “Differential gene expression in the Tardigrade Tun State: osmotic stress versus dehydration”, David DeGaramo (Wyalusing, PA, advised by Dr. Long) presented a poster titled “Impact of icariin on gene expression and viability of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma cells in vitro,” Gavin Neigh (Owego, NY, advised by Dr. Long) presented a poster titled “Evaluating silver nitrate induced tumor cell death in vitro,” and Cheyanne Youse (Westfield, PA, advised by Dr. Kagle) presented a poster titled “Characterization of an antibiotic-producing soil isolate with three distinct colony morphologies.” In the category of Ecology and Organismal Biology, Katelyn Davis (Gouldsboro, PA) and Kory Wolfe (Sunbury, PA), advised by Dr. Farkas, won first place for their joint poster presentation titled “Tardigrade viability upon exposure to micro- and nanoplastics.” Katherine Thompson (Greenville, PA, advised by Dr. Farkas) also presented a poster in this category titled, “Analyzing the pervasiveness of microplastic beads in mouse livers, spleens and kidneys.” Over 150 talks and posters from across the PASSHE system were presented and judged, and Mansfield University once again demonstrated that a small school can achieve big returns!

This statewide Biology conference provides many opportunities to young scientists, and these experiences go far beyond just research. Students had the opportunity to network and interact with students and faculty from other PASSHE universities. Tyler Walters explains, “CPUB was an incredibly unique opportunity that allowed for me to interact with undergraduate researchers from other institutions. These interactions provide unique perspective on approaches to research, presentation styles, and the interpersonal culture of the scientific community.” Kory Wolfe added, “It was great to see what other students are doing at other schools and to gain experience presenting in a professional setting.”

Cheyanne Youse said, “It was great to share my research with other scientists, and to see firsthand how successful they want you to be.” Senior Adriana Vaskas added, “This experience provided the opportunity to network with fellow young scientists and learn about other projects being conducted at the undergraduate level within the PASSHE state system.”

“I enjoyed listening to everyone’s presentations and learning about research other than my own,” said Katelyn Davis.

In addition, the CPUB conference allowed students to gain experience in public speaking and increase their confidence in their research and their communication skills. According to Ms. Vaskas, “This experience was important practice for presenting my research to fellow scientists in the future.” Ms. Davis continues, “Learning to present undergraduate research in a professional setting, will benefit me when I further my education.” Mr. DeGaramo explains, “When thinking about presenting research, it is easy to stress about significant results and think that they are the only things worth presenting; going to CPUB has shown me that this is not the case. Rather than being a stressful event where I was worried about being judged, it was an enriching experience that allowed me to look at my own research through other biologist’s eyes. Their feedback aided me in finding new directions in which to take my project, and this process has greatly ameliorated my issues with public presentation.”

The efforts Mansfield faculty put forth in preparing students for the CPUB conference did not go unnoticed by these students. Mr. Walters states, “I am deeply thankful for the mentorship provided by the Mansfield University Biology Department, and I look forward to seeing what Mansfield is able to bring to the scientific community moving forward.” Mr. Chilson agrees, “I’m thankful to have professors who not only instill a love of science into their students, but also go out of their ways to ensure we gain firsthand experience presenting research we have worked hard on.” 

The students enjoyed an all-around great experience. Ms. Youse continues, “There is always something new to learn, and receiving feedback on my research will allow me the chance to make my research better, and become a better scientist. Mr. Neigh adds, “It allowed me to apply my knowledge from my project to fit multiple backgrounds in science, and from this I have gained forever-valuable skills that would not have been learned elsewhere.” Ms. Lefever explains, “CPUB has taught me that it isn’t about the perfect project or showing off significant results; it is about celebrating science, engaging with fellow researchers, and becoming inspired. There’s also good food.” Mr. Wolfe agrees, “The desert was phenomenal!” Ms. Lefever concludes, “I encourage any student who has the opportunity to attend to seize it.”