Student Research Showcased at Fourth Annual Academic Fest
The University Commons area and adjacent classrooms at Sacred Heart University were a beehive recently during the Fourth Annual Academic Festival, which included poster presentations, classroom talks and an award ceremony.
The poster session featured 52 displays rendered by undergraduate students from various disciplines, including biology, chemistry, sociology, English, business and nursing. Each display demonstrated students’ ability to conduct research, solve problems and think independently.
Projects were developed over the semester or entire academic year, depending on the discipline. Students worked individually or in groups to create the posters. Twenty-six SHU faculty members judged the projects, and the most deserving students were recognized with awards at the close of the event.
Separately, honors students made topical classroom presentations, which were required for the honors program.
Keri Matthews, computer science professor and co-chair of the poster session, said the exercises “help students with their presentation skills and résumé building, and they are helpful in going on to higher education. Academic career research is essential.”
She referred to the presenters as “the cream of the crop,” adding, “it’s exciting to see the energy and intellectual challenge of all of this.”
Marlina Slamet, poster session co-chair and chair of the Academic Fest, noted that previously, judges came from outside Sacred Heart. This year, however, they were only from SHU. “This helps a wider community of our faculty to fulfill their service requirement to the University,” she said. “This is one of the most important academic sessions we conduct; it involves the entire university.”
Stephen Mastriano, an adjunct professor in SHU’s biology department, served as a judge for the biology work on display and said he found a lot of high-caliber work. “I was a student here and presented at this very same event about eight years ago,” he said. “It’s interesting to participate in this from that perspective. I know how the students feel first-hand. Often, the experience is an encouragement to pursue graduate school.”
Ashley Loser, a sophomore psychology major, found an unexpected benefit from the poster session. “I recently figured out that I want to go to graduate school for my Ph.D., and this project introduced me to research that I will be focused on,” she said. “Our professor, Dr. Jessica Samuolis, really prepared us and made it easy to ask questions. She was very supportive.”
Junior exercise science major Elizabeth McLean said this was the first time she collected data and conducted her own research on a topic. “Typically, in class, we work with provided data,” she said. “My professor, Dr. Wendy Bjerke, is very interested in my field of study and helped me access the data I needed.”