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Students Present Research Findings to State Representatives

by Paige Dormann Apr 18, 2023

What’s the best part about making scientific progress? Sharing it with others.

That’s why DeSales selected several students to present at this year’s Undergraduate Research at the Capitol-Pennsylvania conference in Harrisburg.

“The coolest part was getting to show our representatives what the undergraduates at our school are working on,” says Caitlin McNamara ’23, a biology major and one of the presenters. “It was also cool to see what other Pennsylvania schools are working on.”

Like McNamara, Lucas Acosta-Morales ’23, a dual computer science and mathematics major, enjoyed the conference’s diversity of research.

“Most conferences I have attended in the past have been focused on a particular major, so it was neat to hear about undergraduate research in fields outside of my area of study,” he says. “The experience has definitely renewed my interest in continuing research during graduate school and beyond.”

The students presented on methodologies and findings from various research projects. Participants in the 2022 Mathematics and Computer Science Summer Research Program presented on their progress towards developing an algorithm that effectively analyzes pain in mice.

Sport and exercise physiology students presented on the impact that lifting straps had on deadlift performance in females. Their project began as a requirement for class, but they chose to further their research outside of the classroom.

Kevin Trahey ’24, a sport and exercise physiology major, says his group chose its area of research because of a gap in literature regarding lifting straps and female athletes.

“The results of the study showed that while using the lifting straps athletes were able to perform more repetitions, had a greater mean and peak barbell velocity, and their grip strength fatigued less,” Trahey says. “We concluded that the use of lifting straps is beneficial for athletes when the target muscles are the back and the legs, however in a sport that requires a large amount of grip strength, lifting straps may not be beneficial.”

The students who attended the URC-PA conference left with skills that will help them post-graduation, including public speaking, networking, and presenting to an audience outside of their specific industry.

“Legislators in Harrisburg do not have the same understanding of technical or industry terms,” says Acosta-Morales, “and we must work to make our presentation accessible to them so that they can both understand and learn from our research. This will be a big help to me once I finish graduate school and start my career.

Trahey noted similar takeaways, adding: “This experience is definitely long-lasting. I think many people were interested in what we studied, and it makes me want to dig deeper into different subjects.”