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'Science' Publisher Gives Advice at Undergrad Research Conference

2012 NHS Undergraduate Research Conference

Participants in Georgetown's undergraduate research conference listen as Patrick Eronini (NHS'12), far right, talks to School of Nursing & Health Studies Dean Martin Iguchi during the April 18 event.

Alan Leshner

Alan Leshner

April 19, 2012 – Scientists must be vigilant about protecting the integrity of their work, the executive publisher of the journal Science told students and faculty yesterday at the School of Nursing & Health Studies’ 10th annual Undergraduate Research Conference.

“Anytime anybody violates the integrity of science inside or outside the community, we inside the community need to stand up and say it is unacceptable,” said Alan Leshner, who also serves CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Leshner told the undergraduates that the greatest progress in science comes from diversity and that it would be up to them to continue bridging the divide between science and society at large.

“Our relationship with the rest of society is fragile,” he said. “The answer to who is going to do this public engagement is you.”

Honing Skills

Alex Theos

Alex Theos

Sponsored each year by the human science department at the NHS, the conference provides undergraduates with the chance to hone their skills in presenting health and science research to peers, faculty and the broader community.

“The conference really gives the students an opportunity to participate in a community of research,” said Alex Theos, an assistant professor of human science who advises the conference planning committee. “It’s a real learning experience. From a teaching perspective, it is my favorite day of the year.”


Quality of Work

This year’s event drew 46 student research posters from Georgetown, American, George Mason and George Washington universities, as well as the Catholic University of America and the University of Maryland.

NHS Dean Martin Iguchi said he was impressed by the quality of student work at the conference – the first that has taken place since his appointment last July.

“This has been a terrific experience,” he said. “I have been so incredibly blown away by the high quality of the science, the poise of the presenters and the professional quality of the presentations.”

Faculty Mentorship

Organizers say the conference also highlights the important role that faculty mentors play in the development of undergraduate researchers.

Brittany Heckel (C’12), for example works under the guidance of Rhonda Friedman, a professor of neurology at Georgetown University Medical Center.

After meeting with experts at the National Institutes of Health and Georgetown, Heckel developed a proposal to create a database of neurodegenerative disorders.

Incredible Experience

“It’s really been an incredible experience,” said Heckel, who created her proposal to help accelerate related research. “I’ve been able to grow intellectually. Professor Friedman lets me work independently, but also gives me guidance when needed.”

Friedman currently mentors seven undergraduates.

“Georgetown students who are interested in research are amazing,” the professor said.  “It’s absolutely gratifying, and I learn as much from them as they learn from me.”

Poster Presentations

Conference co-chairs Ashley Huber (NHS’12) and Andrew Koenig (C’12) announced the awards.

Andrew Merluzzi, a junior at American University, won the Charles H. Evans Jr., Award for Best Poster Presentation, for “Age-Dependent Differences in Morphine-Induced Taste Aversions.”

Georgetown students Michael Wytock (C’12) took second place for a presentation on how the Oribatid mite uses chemical cues to locate its lichen host, while Sophie Elizabeth Clark (C’12) won third place for “The Efficacy of Tailoring Lectures to Address Student Questions.”

Other Distinctions

Anne Rosenwald

Anne Rosenwald

The Charles H. Evans, Jr., Award for Best Oral Presentation went to Jess Hebert (C’12) for his work in Dr. Richard Schlegel’s lab on human papillomavirus.

Hebert, who won a Goldwater scholarship last year, is exploring the relationship between HPV and contact inhibition, a process occurring naturally in non-cancerous cells that stops them from overgrowing when they touch other cells.

The Allan Angerio Award for Excellence in Faculty Mentorship was awarded to Anthony Riley, chair of the department of psychology at American University.

In addition to the conference awards, Anne Rosenwald, assistant professor of biology and president of the Georgetown chapter of Sigma Xi, inducted 26 students into the scientific research society.

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