Kelly Delano knew she wanted research to be an important part of her undergraduate experience. She just didn’t expect that the opportunities would begin as early as her freshman year.
Last spring, after a chance encounter with Associate Professor of Mathematics David Gerberry, PhD, she began working with him on an algorithm that optimizes congressional redistricting. He hired her to continue the work over the summer, an experience that helped her land a paid internship with the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital this summer.
“I’ve never been more excited for anything in my life!” says Delano, now a sophomore. “Doing research helps you develop a way of thinking where you have to be persistent and embrace failure. The moments when you make even a small breakthrough make it all worthwhile.”
Special events to mark a milestone
Since 1995, the College of Arts and Sciences has been showcasing the work of student researchers like Delano at its annual Celebration of Student Research and Creative Activity. In recognition of the event’s 25th year, the 2019 Celebration will expand to include a second day of presentations and a reception to honor four individuals who have been instrumental in the event’s success over the years.
The Celebration begins Thursday, April 25, with posters and oral presentations in the afternoon, followed by the dinner. Events on Friday, April 26, include additional posters and oral presentations in the afternoon, followed by a reception and awards presentation. Honorees will include Undergraduate Research Mentor of the Year and Undergraduate Researcher of the Year.
Last year’s Celebration included presentations by 114 Xavier students. Many students also present their work at national meetings, such as the National Conference of Undergraduate Research.
“The Celebration is one of the keynote events of our spring semester, and undergraduate research itself is a signature experience of a Xavier University education,” says Rick Mullins, PhD, chemistry professor and director of undergraduate research at Xavier.
“It is a way to celebrate the work students do under the guidance of a faculty advisor and allows them to present their accomplishments to the broader Xavier community.”
Student research as a turning point
Xavier alumna Sarah Jablonski Schandle, who earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2006, will give the keynote address at Friday’s reception. Schandle has a doctorate in psychology (behavioral neuroscience) and works as a scientific director and writer for a New York-based medical communications company.
“Participating in undergraduate student research at XU was a turning point for me. Everything I have done in my career developed out of these early experiences,” says Schandle, who presented a poster as a junior at Xavier’s 2005 Celebration.
“My experiences in research have helped me to critically examine a range of scientific topics with a clear scientific eye, and transfer my skills to communicate about science in many areas of clinical and basic research. I hope my talk inspires students to be open to new experiences within research, because you never know how they may influence future goals and career paths.”
The arts take part
While research is often associated with the sciences, art majors are also integrally involved in the Celebration of Student Research. This year, a record number—seven—will present their work. Typically these students have conducted historical research and original analysis on an artist to produce a paper or have focused on a “theme” to produce an original body of work. Art majors have presented works in drawing, ceramics, fibers, graphic design, mixed media, painting, photography, printmaking and sculpture.
"I love seeing what Xavier students are interested in and how they are investigating these things in their respective disciplines,” says Professor of Art Suzanne Chouteau, MFA, who mentors and serves as a research advisor for art students.
“The art students reveal their unique problem-solving techniques by showing some of their tools and process images involved in the making of their artworks, and share how their representations create meaning in the work. I always learn new things when I attend the Celebration that inspire me as a teacher and an artist.”
Chouteau is one of the four people who will be honored at the Thursday night dinner for her contributions to student research and the Celebration. Others include:
- Janice Walker, PhD, chief diversity and inclusion officer at Xavier, who created the University’s first Office of Undergraduate Research and oversaw the Celebration for several years during her tenure as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
- Barbara Hopkins, PhD, chair of the Department of Chemistry, who served as the first director of undergraduate research, oversaw the Celebration and the summer research symposium, and serves as a mentor for many student researchers.
- Marca Kasselmann, administrative assistant, Department of Chemistry and Department of Physics, who for many years worked tirelessly behind the scenes to organize the event, from collecting the abstracts and taking pictures to ordering the food and supporting research students.
Alumni are invited to attend the Celebration of Student Research and Creative Activity. For more information, please contact Mullinsr@xavier.edu.