12 students with medals around their necks pose with smiling teacher

Student researchers celebrated at Penn State Scranton Undergraduate Research Fair and Exhibition

Annual event encourages critical thinking and hands-on research and presentations, adding another level of learning and accomplishment to students' college experience.
By: Morgan Sewack

DUNMORE, Pa. – Penn State Scranton students from a variety of academic backgrounds presented their research and creative projects at this year's annual Undergraduate Research Fair and Exhibition, where they had the opportunity to discuss their work one-on-one with faculty and staff judges, as well as other students and visitors.

The event celebrates the undergraduate research, scholarship and creative achievements the participating students, who worked with their faculty advisors and mentors throughout the semester, have attained. This year, there were over 150 students presenters, showcasing a total of 131 projects, including academic and scientific research, as well as creative works like poems, short stories, paintings and sculptures and oral and poster presentations of research projects. 

Academic and scientific research was presented on traditional poster displays, while other students gave oral presentations, participated on panel discussions, and had their artistic works such as paintings and sculptures displayed in a gallery-style setting in the Sherbine Lounge.

There are also awards presented by the campus library. The University Libraries Award for Excellence in Information Literacy recognizes scholarly work based on a foundation of careful background research and literature review and is given to entries that demonstrate excellence in information literacy through the following: showcasing your research process and strategies; selection of sources that contribute to your argument and ideas; social, ethical, or economic considerations in accessing information; and credit and proper citation for any quotes, tables, graphs, images, and other content displayed. 

This year marks the campus' 17th annual research fair and the second time that Megan Van Etten, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology and biology program coordinator, served as coordinator of the event.

“Research is a creative activity, regardless of the topic. It is how we create meaning about the world in which we live,” Van Etten said. “Participating in undergraduate research allows students to experience this foundational aspect of higher education.”

While some students presented projects as part of a class assignment, others presented research for the experience and personal enjoyment.

“Getting involved in research helps develop marketable skills, such as critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, perseverance, communication, teamwork,” Van Etten said. “Independent research also looks great on resumes and CV’s and strengthens post-graduate applications.”

Van Etten believes everyone needs to understand how new knowledge is generated so that they are better able to evaluate whether information is reliable. “Students get a chance to learn something that no one else in the world knows yet. What could be more amazing than that?”

student explains biology poster at research fair

Biology student Krutik Solanki discusses his project, "Effects of Antibiotic-producing Bacteria on Growth of Brassica Rapa" with Dr. Agnes Kim, associate professor of physics and one of the faculty judges for this year's Undergraduate Research Fair and Exhibition at Penn State Scranton.

Credit: Morgan Sewack

The event is sponsored in part by the Robert Y. Moffat Family Charitable Trust.

Photos from this year's fair are on Flickr. This year's winners, and the categories they were awarded in, are:

Category #1: Empirical:

1st place – Alexandria Dewolf:  Using iNaturalist Observations to Estimate Pollinator Abundance and the Effect of Human Disturbance
(Faculty Advisor: Megan Van Etten)

2nd place - Devin Peterson:  Growth and Developmental Effects of Plants Polluted with Electronic Cigarette Liquid (E-liquid)
(Faculty Advisor: Megan Van Etten)

Category #2: Literature Review

1st place - Sarah Marble:  Neonatal Surgery and its Neurodevelopmental Impacts on Infants Born with Congenital Heart Disease
(Faculty Advisor: Kelly Worozbyt)

1st place - Madelyn Grilz: Brain Stimulation Used for Symptom Relief in Parkinson's Patients
(Faculty Advisor: Kelly Worozbyt)

2nd place - Megan Grippi:  Addiction Medicine Treatment in Farm-based Environments
(Faculty Advisor: Kelly Worozbyt)

Honorable Mention - Isabelle Pehanick:  Anti-inflammatory Diet to Improve Symptoms for Individuals with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
(Faculty Advisor: Kelly Worozbyt)

Category #3 Proposal:

1st place - Amanda Moody:  Analysis of Leadership Style and Employee Perception and Performance
(Faculty Advisor: Renae McNair)

2nd place - Kaylee Salony and Steven Paredes:  The Relationship Between Adverse Childhood Experiences, Location, and the Weapon-Focus Effect in Eyewitness Testimony
(Faculty Advisor: Andrew Provenzano)

Category #5 Design

1st place - Parkston Myers, Ryan Blanchard, Noah Petrucci, and Dhaval Patel, Sneh Desai:  Fine-Tuning Your Website: Insights from a Website Audit, WordPress Plugins, and PHP Code
(Faculty Advisor: Alan Peslak)

2nd place - Philip Haser, Rudolf Null and Rushi Patel:  Hemlock Farms Purchase Order Database
(Faculty Advisor: Alan Peslak)

Category #6 Visual Arts

1st place - Ammaarah Hassan: Passion Lost
(Faculty Advisor: Corianne Thompson)

2nd place - Molly Morgan:  Regal Majesty: A Portrait of the Buck
(Faculty Advisor: Corianne Thompson)

Category #7 Oral Presentations

1st place - Halle O'Neil:  Pray You Love, Remember: An Analysis of Juliet and Ophelia in Shakespeare's Tragedies
(Faculty Advisor: Jody Griffith)

2nd place - Olivia Maikranz:  From Anchoress to Anarchist: The Truth Behind Julian of Norwich
(Faculty Advisor: Kara Stone)

2nd place - Madison Tricarico:  A Battle of Passiveness and Righteousness: A Contrasting of Judith and Custance
(Faculty Advisor: Kara Stone)

3 smiling women wearing medals pose with a teacher

Winners in the Oral Presentations category at this year's Undergraduate Research Fair and Exhibition, in which there was a tie for second place, are, from left: Olivia Maikranz (second place), Madison Tricarico, (second place) and Halle O'Neil (first place). At right is Megan Van Etten, assistant professor of biology and research fair coordinator.

Credit: Morgan Sewack

Special Category -- University Libraries Award for Excellence in Information Literacy
1st place - Taylor Saltkill Mcrew:  "
How Relationships Between the Transgender Community and Healthcare Providers Affect Physical and Mental Health Outcomes"
2nd place Natalie Faybisovich:  "The Effectiveness of Telehealth Medicine in Critical Care"
3rd place -- Marissa Milton, Natalie Faybisovich and Megan Lucy:  "Providing Compassionate Evidence Based Care to the HIV/AIDs population at the End of Life."

4th place -- Devin Peterson:  "Growth and Developmental Effects of Plants Polluted with Electronic Cigarette Liquid (E-liquid)"   
5th place -- Angelena Allen and Liv Damski:  "
Greening the Final Frontier: Using Gene Expression to Explore how Plants Perceive Space."

diverse group of eight students smile while holding certificates

Winners of the Excellence in Information Literacy at the 2023 Penn State Scranton Undergraduate Research Fair, from left, are:  Assistant Librarian Molly Abdalla, Liz Damski, Angelena Allen, Megan Lucy, Devin Peterson, Marissa Milton, Taylor Saltkill Mcrew and Natalie Faybisovich.

Credit: Morgan Sewack


First time participant in Undergraduate Research Fair wins two University Libraries Awards

Third-year nursing student, Natalie Faybisovich prepared for weeks for her first time participating in this year’s Undergraduate Research Fair.

She submitted two projects, each taking about 15 to 17 weeks, a semesters’ length, to compile studies, synthesize the literature and develop a well-informed analysis of the combined research.

Little did she know when she was preparing for all those weeks that she would  eventually win two University Libraries Excellence in Information Literacy Awards, which recognize scholarly work based on a foundation of careful background research and literature review.

“Although I felt confident about the quality of my projects, I knew I was in a room full of talented researchers. Winning my awards was a pleasant surprise and a validation of the hard work that went into both projects,” Faybisovich said.

“It’s a great honor to be recognized by my peers and mentors for the dedication that was put into my research.”

Faybisovich’s research project titled, “Telehealth Medicine in Critical Care,” which is one of the two projects she submitted, was her own literature review of the effectiveness of telehealth medicine in critical care.

She picked the subject because she feels telemedicine is “an exciting topic that can be groundbreaking for the field of healthcare delivery,” she said. “It is an actively evolving care model that is already being used to improve clinical outcomes by expanding the capacity and resources of many facilities across the world,” she said.

Her other project titled, “Compassionate End of Life Care for the HIV/AIDs Population,” recognizes the barriers that prevent individuals in this population from receiving compassionate care and identifies the best practices, as determined through research, to ensure high quality end of life care. 

She conducted research regarding compassionate care to individuals of the HIV/AIDs population at the end of life with fourth-year nursing students Megan Lucey and Marisa Milton. 

Faybisovich expressed her gratitude to Lucey and Milton, her co-researchers and co-award winners, for their contribution to their work and to her growth in the field of nursing research.

Following on her success at this week's campus research fair, Faybisovich will be attending the University Park Undergraduate Exhibition later this month to present this project on behalf of her research group. “I’m excited to take my experience of participating in the PSU Scranton Research Fair to University Park next week for their Undergraduate Exhibition!” she exclaimed.

Through her first time participating in the Undergraduate Research Fair, Faybisovich said she gained a deeper appreciation for the value of research. “I am eager to explore new areas of inquiry and contribute to the development of evidence-based nursing practices that can enhance the quality of care provided to patients,” she said.

“The Undergraduate Research Fair was a tremendous success! As an event that promotes research and innovation, it provided an excellent opportunity for students to exchange ideas with their peers, and to share their research with those in other fields of study on campus! I was delighted to see such a strong commitment to academic excellence and intellectual curiosity.” 

Prior to the fair, Faybisovich had been most looking forward to the opportunity to use her work to “bring awareness to a population that has historically been associated with significant stigma and share information on new technology that may be changing the healthcare landscape in the years to come.”

She has been working alongside Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Nursing Education at the Commonwealth Campuses for the Ross and Carol Nese College of Nursing Michael Evans, who had spearheaded the research team that was made up of eight individuals, besides himself, at different levels of their education and careers.

He said Faybisovich is “a joy to work with” and that her motivation, organization, curiosity and intelligence all play a major role throughout the research projects.  

“Being able to join this team during my third year of undergraduate nursing studies has fostered an enthusiasm for academic inquiry and exploration in the field of nursing,” Faybisovich said.

Evans has been mentoring students in undergraduate research since 2008, when he worked with students in his clinical groups on projects that they would then present at the campus’ Undergraduate Research Fair. He believes it is critical for students to get involved in undergraduate research and other co-curricular events.

“Through this experience they get to work one-on-one with faculty and learn important skills about research, such as how to write research questions; how to conduct a literature review and analyze and synthesize the information; how to conduct research using various methods; how to analyze results; and how to disseminate the results -- which my students often get to do through local and regional conferences,” he said.

“It is through this that they get to network with peers and other researchers and learn more about nursing research. However, the most important thing that students on my undergraduate research team learn is to always question ‘why’ and to follow the evidence. This is critical whether they choose to pursue a career in research or in clinical practice as we want our students to graduate and provide safe evidence-based care.”

Faybisovich will be presenting work at several local and regional research fairs this spring, including the 2023 Translating Research to Innovations in Practice Symposium and Conference at the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center. At this event, Faybisovich will be showcasing the group’s work and participate in a lecture given by guest speakers discussing ways to improve healthcare through scientific advances in nursing across various patient populations and care settings. Evans will be joining her for this conference as well.

She is also a co-author on a manuscript, along with a faculty member from another institution, four graduate students and two other undergraduate students titled, "Providing compassionate evidence-based care to the HIV/AIDS population at the end of life: A case study," which has been accepted for publication in the journal Nursing Made Incredibly Easy!

“I am most excited to represent our Penn State Scranton campus!” she exclaimed. “The Penn State Scranton Nursing program has provided me with supportive faculty who have true intentions of helping their students succeed. They have opened doors for my career that I will forever be grateful for.”

Faybisovich acknowledged Evans, Kiernan Riley, Ph.D., Kaléi Kowalchik, Charles C. Robinson, Lucy Adams, Logan Desanto and current fourth year nursing students from the Penn State Scranton campus and her co-researchers Megan Lucey and Marisa Milton for their collaboration on the research regarding ‘Compassionate End of Life Care to Individuals in the HIV/AIDs Population,’ as well as, Kelly Worozbyt, Ph.D., assistant teaching professor of nursing at Penn State Scranton and her research advisor on the ‘Effectiveness of Telehealth Medicine in Critical Care’ literature review.