Saint Leo Undergrads Excel in a Variety of Research Projects

April 06, 2017

Several undergraduates had research work accepted for presentation at specialized academic conferences. Saint Leo affords students the opportunity to pursue research projects, often with the guidance of professors. These notable endeavors prepare students for later graduate school opportunities or other honors.

Florida Academy of Sciences 2017 Conference

Biology majors Margaret Little ’17 and Karra Rutherford ’17 co-authored a research abstract on an area of cancer research they have been investigating with Dr. Iain Duffy of the science faculty. During the Florida Academy of Sciences Conference, Little gave an oral presentation on “Potential effects of activin receptor-like kinase 1 (ALK1) and endoglin expression on tumor angiogenic factors.” Little was recognized at the conference for Outstanding Oral Presentation by an undergraduate in the Biological Sciences Section of the academy.

In addition, both young women landed impressive research internships during the summer of 2016. Little worked in a molecular oncology laboratory at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa under the center’s Summer Program for Advancement of Research Knowledge, or SPARK. The internship provides an opportunity to learn laboratory research methods and techniques, along with the opportunities to review and discuss findings with researchers.

Rutherford attained an internship at the University of Oregon in the Institute of Molecular Biology. Her project work on cell mutations also required learning lab techniques and methods, and she presented her work orally and in a research poster at the university.

Both had additional professional development opportunities to attend other research seminars at their internship locations.

Southeastern Psychological Association 2017 Meeting

Psychology majors at Saint Leo University are among those who participate in undergraduate research presentation sessions at the Southeastern Psychological Association Meeting. Two students were honored with distinctions.  

Matthew Bolton ’18 was one of five students from universities across the association to give an oral presentation on his research topic, “The Relationship between Familiarity with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Disclosure of Diagnosis.” Bolton was given a first-place Psi Chi Honor Society award among the student oral presenters for study quality, interest, and presentation skills, plus another award for academic achievement for multiple projects.  His faculty sponsor on the autism spectrum disorder project was Dr. Lara Ault.  Bolton will eventually study for a doctorate.

Dahlia Cash holds Psi Chi awardAlso, Dahlia Cash ’18 (pictured left) was recognized for the research she presented in poster format, “The Influence of Parenting Styles on Self-Esteem and Academic Expectations in Young Adults.” She won the Psi Chi Honor Society SEPA Regional Research Award for the work. Dr. Kevin Kieffer was her faculty sponsor on the project. She is already excited about two more studies she is planning as an undergraduate, one on cross-cultural influences in prejudice, stereotypes, and discrimination, and the other on the influences of personality on pro-social behavior.

Just a few of the other research topics explored by Saint Leo students who submitted work to the conference included: factors related to student adjustment to college life; texting and its addictive nature; and college students’ views of racial profiling. Each student project has a faculty sponsor.

The Florida Conference of Historians 2017

Kayla Bryant ’17 drew on her interests in popular music, social commentary, and her father’s career in juvenile justice work to create a research project interesting to her. She based her well-received presentation for the Florida Conference of Historians, “Drug References in Popular Music from 1980-2016,” on her senior thesis in history, completed under the guidance of Dr. Douglas Astolfi. Bryant wondered if the music of the 1980s referred to drugs more indirectly than the music of today. She was surprised at what she actually found, that “the amount of or kind of drug references in popular music depended on social issues during that time, the popularity of the drug, and the effects of the drug.” Bryant would like to teach and later pursue graduate school.