Ed McCleskey, scientific officer with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, delivered the keynote address at the Undergraduate Research and Service Celebratory Symposium.

Summer achievements

Symposium highlights summer undergraduate service, research projects


2:44 p.m., Aug. 14, 2012--The University of Delaware hosted the third annual Undergraduate Research and Service Celebratory Symposium on Thursday, Aug. 9, in Clayton Hall.

The capstone event showcased the accomplishments of more than 330 undergraduate students who participated in summer research and service projects with faculty advisers and community partners. 

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Following a welcome from Nancy Brickhouse, UD interim provost, the symposium featured oral presentations and student poster displays.

“There was a constant buzz of excitement as the Undergraduate Research and Service Celebratory Symposium provided students with the opportunity to share their knowledge in a professional manner,” Lynnette Overby, professor of theatre and director of UD’s Office of Undergraduate Research and Experiential Learning, said. “We greatly appreciate the financial support for this program provided by the Office of the Provost and the Alliance of Summer Scholars Programs.”

Ed McCleskey, scientific officer with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, gave the keynote address. 

In welcoming McCleskey, Harold (Hal) White, director of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Undergraduate Science Education Program at UD, said the symposium affirms the University’s continuing commitment to undergraduate student research. 

“We have a fantastic undergraduate research program at UD that got started abut 30 years ago, and about 10 years ago we started having a symposium which featured this work,” White said. “What we are doing at UD is being seen by others who are trying to do the same thing.” 

McCleskey noted how graduate school helped him to develop a valuable set of skills that incudes mastery of method, verbal and written communication, complex data analysis, strategic thinking and self-motivation. 

“Basically, these are the qualities that make the world’s economic engine go round. They also are the skills that employers want,” McCleskey said. “I can see that UD is going a great job in teaching people these skills”

McCleskey said that careers for graduates with a doctorate in science include academic and corporate research scientist, undergraduate college professor, patent law, science writing, administrative finance and government advising.

Student research and service 

Lisa Pilchman, a senior biology major and Honors Program student, spent the summer researching at the Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington. Her poster presentation was “Analysis of Next-Generation Exome Sequencing for Molecular Diagnosis of Rare Genetic Disorders.” Her project title was Identifying the Genetic Mutation That Causes Bararella-Scott Syndrome.” 

Katia Sol-Church, director of the Biomolecular Core Laboratory at the hospital, was faculty adviser. 

Pilchman said working in the laboratory convinced her that she still loves the field of genetics and is considering a career in genetic counseling. 

“I enjoyed seeing the posters and hearing about the work of other undergraduate researchers,” Pilchman said. “It’s amazing how varied the research is here at UD.”

Michael Rowley, a senior exercise major and Honors Program student, presented “The Effect of Plantarflexion Angle on Landing Mechanics Using a Within-Subjects Real-Time Feedback Protocol.”

Faculty adviser for the project was James Richards, Distinguished Professor of Kinesiology and Applied Physiology.

“My research was on how the angle of the ankle affects the force that a person lands with,” Rowley said. “My favorite part was seeing if the data I collected from the patients in the study matched up to my hypothesis.” 

Although the results differed from his hypothesis, Rowley said they also extended the scope of his original research interests to include the possible role of the knee and the hip in determining the landing impact. 

Rowley plans to go to graduate school to earn a doctorate in biomechanics and kinesiology and pursue a career in academic research and teaching.

Service learning and ArtsBridge scholars:  

  • Jennifer Ferris, a senior history education major and Honors Program student, worked on the Social Studies and the Stage project at the Kuumba Academy in Wilmington. Lynnette Overby was faculty adviser. 
  • Sophie Bandlow, a junior elementary education major, worked under the direction of Eugene Matsuov, professor in the School of Education, to create a math-focused Play and Learn program at the H. Fletcher Brown Boys and Girls Club in Wilmington. 
  • Brittany Drazich, a senior nursing major and Honors Program student, Paula Kalksma, a senior health behavior science major, and Whitney Harris, a health behavior science major, worked at the Howard Weston Senior Center in New Castle, using the Wii and Kinect game consoles for a summer-long ExerGame Olympics. Faculty adviser was Elizabeth Orsega-Smith, associate professor of behavioral health and nutrition.  

Roberta Golinkoff, H. Rodney Sharp Professor in the School of Education, and professor of linguistics, cognitive science and psychology, said one of the things that makes UD so special is its attention to undergraduate researchers.

“We are truly creating the next generation of scientists for the United States,” Golinkoff said. “Everybody who is involved should be lauded for inspiring these students and for the fabulous work taking place here. It is a celebration of the life of the mind.”

Sustainability prize

The second annual Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Research in Sustainability Prize was awarded during the symposium. The winners are as follows:

First place: Taylor Smith, a senior environmental engineering major, “Biochemical Processes Utilizing Electrogenic Bacteria.” Faculty mentor, Steven Dentel, professor of civil and environmental engineering.

Second place: Peter Attia, a senior chemical engineering major, “Thermoelectric Poser Generation in a Tempororally-Varrying Temperature Environment.” Faculty mentor, Joshua Zide, assistant professor of materials science and mechanical engineering. Also, Justin Teesdale, a senior chemistry major, “Rhenium Platforms Supporting Ancillary BODIPY Chromophores for Conversion of CO2 to Fuels.” Faculty mentor, Joel Rosenthal, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

Third place: Annie Sanger, a junior biomedical engineering major, “Recycling of Bio-Rad SDS gel Cassettes.” Faculty mentor, Catherine Grimes, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

The award was established by the UD Undergraduate Research Program, the University of Delaware Library and Gale, a leading organization in e-research and educational publishing, to encourage undergraduate research and projects in the area of sustainability.

The prize is presented in conjunction with the implementation of the Global Reference on the Environment, Energy and Natural Resources (GREENR) database by the library.

The symposium is planned and implemented by the Alliance of Summer Scholars Programs, a group of directors and coordinators of more than a dozen summer experiential programs at UD.

Article by Jerry Rhodes

Photos by Lane McLaughlin and Kathy F. Atkinson

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