Student Research Saw National Spotlight in 2022-23

June 14, 2023 | by the Office of Marketing and Communications

Students presenting researchFrom Chicago and Dubuque to Dallas and Portland, Elmhurst students traveled the country this past academic year to present their original research at prestigious conferences.

A Deep Dive into Psychology

In November 2022, 27 psychology students traveled to Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, to attend the Tri-State Psychology Research Conference, an annual symposium that focuses on work done by undergraduates in collaboration with faculty.

“We drove in vans and stayed overnight,” says Associate Professor of Psychology Liz Majka, who led the trip along with Josh VanArsdall, associate chair and associate professor of psychology. “It was not only a great learning experience for the students but also a really good bonding exercise.”

For many of the students, it was their first time attending a scholarly conference. For others, it was their first chance to present their own work to peers and faculty members from across the region.

“The Tri-State was the first conference I’d ever been to, and also the first one where I presented my research at a poster session,” says Bobby Zita ’25, a computer science major who’s working with Majka to examine the relationship between spending money on other people and one’s own well-being. “It was interesting to see other people’s projects and get suggestions for future directions for my own work.”

Recognition Across Disciplines

In April, nine students were accepted to present their research at the National Conference of Undergraduate Research (NCUR), an annual event that celebrates undergraduate achievement across all disciplines. Held in Eau Claire, Wis., the conference brought together students and faculty from all over the United States.

For Jeffrey Johnson ’23, a biochemistry and psychology major who gave poster presentations in both Dubuque and Eau Claire, NCUR provided a welcome opportunity to hear from researchers in other fields. “I went to two sessions about chemistry, where I learned a lot that I could apply to my own work,” says Johnson, who worked alongside Zita on Majka’s well-being project. “We also met a lot of people and expanded our networks.”

A Focus on Lived Experience

In February, four teacher candidates traveled to Oregon with Simeon Stumme, associate professor of education, to present their authoethnographic research at the National Association of Bilingual Educators conference in Portland.

The work came out of a project Stumme ran last summer with support from the University. “I was an elementary school teacher for 11 years, and I’ve always worked with students who are learning English as their second language,” Stumme says. “But one of the things I’ve noticed as a university professor is that a lot of the efforts to serve bilingual K-12 learners stop in higher education. My project was an attempt to bring some of the language of K-12 education into the higher ed classroom.”

In twice-weekly meetings, Stumme asked five education majors to reflect on and write about their lived experiences as Latina students with an eye to helping college and university professors better address the needs of bilingual learners.

“A lot of the works that we read in college are from a Eurocentric point of view,” says Angelica Mojica ’23, an early childhood education major. “As Latinas and first-generation college students, we come from a different background. To share our experiences with educators felt really worthwhile.”

Several of Stumme’s students also presented at the annual meeting of the American Education Research Association in April. Held in Chicago this year, the event is the largest and most prestigious international research conference on educational issues.

National Honors

In November, five students traveled to the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) Annual Conference in Dallas to give musical performances and presentations of scholarly work.

At the final conference recital, saxophonist John Havrilla ’23 received a standing ovation. Julia Zickus ’23, a biology and biotechnology major, won second place in math and science for her poster, “Cytokines Cause Decreased Expression of Gene Influencing Memory and Learning.”

Other students at NCHC presented work on everything from the effects of probiotic environmental conditions on breast cancer cells to the impact of multitasking on perceptions of time. In addition, Mary Kay Mulvaney, professor of English and director of the Honors Program, co-led a workshop on short-term study abroad experiences.

“I am continually amazed by our Honors Program students at research conferences like NCHC and NCUR,” Mulvaney said. “Their sophisticated research projects span a wide variety of disciplines from the STEM fields to the arts and humanities, and students present their research in a highly professional manner. They certainly do Elmhurst University proud!”

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