Penn State Scranton hosting virtual Regional Research Symposium this week

DUNMORE, Pa. — Coming on the heels of the campus’ recent Undergraduate Research Web Showcase, Penn State Scranton will play host to the 10th Penn State Eastern Regional Undergraduate Research Symposium this week.

Beginning Monday, April 19, and continuing through Thursday, April 22, the Research Symposium will also be presented as a web showcase, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. All poster submissions can be viewed at

While he lamented not being able to host an in-person event, Associate Professor of Physics and symposium chair Asif ud-Doula said he’s happy that the students’ high-quality work is getting sufficient exposure.

“These virtual events help to maintain at least some level of much-needed normalcy. And the students respond enthusiastically if given the right opportunity,” ud-Doula said. “Also, some of our students are connecting from far away, so this year's virtual event gives them an opportunity to present their work.”

This year’s symposium will feature a total of 32 poster presentations from six Penn State campuses, as well as the University of Scranton, Marywood University and Keystone College. The posters are broken up into four categories: Arts and Humanities; Biological Sciences and Health; Physical Sciences, Information Sciences, Engineering; and Social Sciences and Business.

More than 20 judges have signed up to review the projects, with monetary projects going to the first- and second-place winners in each category.

Of the research projects, five are from campus students. They are:

— Aditya Chakrabarti: “Exploring the Relationship Between the Mass and the Radius of White Dwarves”

Patrick Dougherty: “Methane: Biosignature of Extraterrestrial Life on Planets Orbiting M-dwarf Stars”

Blair Hecker: “The Myth of Spaghettification by Black Hole”

Emily Scarfo: “The Effectiveness of a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner”

Erika Wheeler: “Loneliness and Video Chats during the COVID-19 Pandemic”

“Blair is a student of mine and she presented a very nice poster, for which I served as project adviser,” ud-Doula said. “My other student, Patrick Dougherty, won first prize in the science category at our fair for his project about extraterrestrial life on planets orbiting small stars called M-dwarfs. I learned quite a few things from this project, and Patrick did a nice job estimating habitable zones around these stars.”

On Thursday, April 22, the symposium will conclude with a live virtual event from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Zoom at this link.

In addition to the announcement of the award winners, the program will include introductory remarks by Hecker, a welcome by Chancellor Marwan Wafa, and a keynote presentation by Gregory Jenkins, professor in the Department of Meteorology at University Park and director of the Alliance for Education, Sciences, Engineering and Development in Africa (AESEDA) in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. The title of Jenkins’ presentation is “Undergraduate Research: The First Step for Addressing Community, National and Grand Challenges.”

“My philosophy is that this is a student-centered event, and so students should be in control of it. We faculty only provide the platform,” ud-Doula said. “As such, I selected Blair to run the program. She is articulate and self-confident, and I am sure she will do a great job as the presenter.”

Besides Hecker, ud-Doula praised the “amazing dedication, patience and above all amazing skills” of Web Designer Shannon Williams and Academic Affairs Administrative Support Assistant Suzanne Morgan, who both spent significant time getting the symposium’s website up and running.

“I couldn’t be grateful enough for them,” he said. “Without them, this would have been a painful experience. With them, though, it was a breeze.”