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Students present in Wisconsin at National Conference on Undergraduate Research

Published on April 27, 2023

Students present in Wisconsin at National Conference on Undergraduate Research

From left to right: Marcus Grant, Megan Piechowicz, Marcel Vicente, Liam Hemingway, Denisse Diaz-Sanchez, Jordyn Szretter, Katherine Escalante and Emily Pollard

Hemingway presenting "Graph Partitioning Applied to Congressional Redistricting and Gerrymandering"

Szretter presenting "Examining Length of Stay (LOS) and Hospital Readmission of Pneumonia Patients in the U.S. between 2010-2014"

Eastern Connecticut State University sent nine students to the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire on April 13 to present their research findings at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR), the nation's largest undergraduate research conference. Eastern students presented work in a variety of fields, from research on high-speed rails to pigment mutations of plants.

Eastern’s student researchers were senior psychology major Emily Pollard, sophomore economics major Jordyn Szretter, senior art major Denisse Diaz-Sanchez, senior biology major Megan Piechowicz, junior English major Marcus Grant, senior mathematics major Liam Hemingway, sophomore political science major Katherine Escalante and junior political science major Marcel Vicente.

"The work of all our students was of the highest quality and it was gratifying to observe their intellectual interactions not only with their peers but also with many faculty attending the event," said political science Professor Martin Mendoza-Botelho, the group's faculty advisor.

Vicente presenting "Interventionism and U.S. Foreign Policy: Tracking Public Opinion on U.S. Foreign Policy and Recent International Events"

“The best part about the NCUR conference was meeting and engaging with students and faculty across the nation and across disciplines,” said Vicente, who gave an oral presentation on how the current political climate, foreign relations and foreign policy shape the perceptions of young adults. “This is a valuable experience because it teaches us how to engage in discussions and present to audiences that we are not typically exposed to or comfortable with.”

Aside from the vast number of networking and collaborative opportunities, Vicente said presenting at such a prestigious conference helped students “acquire transferable skills.” He said presenting at NCUR “exponentially” increased his understanding of concepts outside of his discipline, like public speaking, which will serve as a beneficial tool for his future career. “I encourage any dedicated and motivated student to submit proposals to present at conferences like this,” Vicente said.

“It meant a lot to have had my abstract accepted and to go with such smart and accomplished Eastern students,” said Escalante, whose research centered on the use of artificial intelligence linguistic models to conduct an improved version of "discourse analysis" on high-speed rail policy in the United States. “I've already learned so much from everyone.”

Escalante presenting her reserach, "The Case for the Prioritization of Highspeed Rails in the United States"

Many of the student presenters, like honors student Piechowicz, reiterated the importance of collaboration, considering peer feedback and applying suggested revisions to their research. 

“I loved seeing the establishment of interdisciplinary connections and the ways it enhances research,” said Piechowicz, who used a forward genetics approach to find genes that control blue, red or purple pigmentation in plants. “Presenting my research was a great way to receive feedback from others in similar and distant professions.”

Piechowicz, said she lent her insights about laboratory procedures to fellow biologists conducting research in hopes of promoting future collaborative efforts that span beyond the Eastern community.

Piechowicz presenting her research, "mRNA expression analysis of a novel deregulated anthocyanin pigmentation mutant in the model legume plant Medicago truncatula"

"The students that represented Eastern at NCUR are clearly outstanding individuals with ambitious career plans," said Mendoza-Botelho. "As a faculty member at Eastern, I am not only impressed by their work but also proud of what they have accomplished in their time with us. Their achievements also reflect the compromise, guidance and mentorship of many of my (Eastern) colleagues. I am certain that their participation in NCUR is just another step in their promising professional careers."

Written by Jack Jones