Penn State Altoona students take part in annual undergraduate research fair


Shuvanon Shahid and Christian Lucia present their group's poster, “The Role of Librarians in Writing Book Reviews” at Penn State Altoona's 2018 Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities Fair. (Art and Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences)

Credit: Terry Boyd

ALTOONA, Pa. — Penn State Altoona held its 16th annual Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities Fair (URCAF) Saturday, April 14, on campus.

The fair offers students a chance to share their research projects and other creative activities with friends and family members, as well as faculty, fellow students and staff. Ninety-one students took part by offering oral presentations, poster presentations, and performances in nine categories, including arts and humanities, nursing, engineering, information technology, and performing arts.

“Each year URCAF surprises and delights the whole campus community,” said Laura Rotunno, URCAF coordinator. “And each year, the range of projects widens and reflects our campus’ dedication to service in the community, environmental protection, the expansion of the arts, and in-depth, innovative research into better ways to use energy and medicines and, in truth, to making this world safer, stronger and more humane. Judges this year attest that student’s projects and presentations are of graduate-student quality.”

Nursing major Stephanie Knaub took part in URCAF for the first time this year. "I believe URCAF benefited me greatly. It provides an opportunity for students like myself to showcase our ability to create, develop, and present a project of our own doing. Participating in the URCAF gave me confidence and was a great stepping stone for future research conferences. The URCAF is highly competitive and a great experience to build on your foundation of skills for future endeavors." 

The Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities Fair is funded by the Penn State Altoona Honors Program. First-, second- and third-place winners receive a monetary award. Winners of each category are listed below.

Performance & Exhibition Winners

First place: Kelly Gajewski, “15901”
Second place: Maddie Quinn, “Welcome Home”
Third place: Justin Biddle, “Intersectionality: More Than Meets the Eye”

Oral Presentations

Engineering, Security Risk Analysis, and Computing and Information Technology

First place: Matthew  Cowan, “Electronic Freight Car Inspection Recording and Application of Internet-of-Things (IoT) and Machine-to-Machine (M2M) Frameworks”

Second place: Andrew Kurtz and Joseph Pfeffer, “Securing the Internet of Things (IoT): A Security Taxonomy and Matrix”

Third place: Sean Harrity and Dayton Blackwood, “Centralizing Virtual Machine Management through OpenStack”

Arts & Humanities and Social Sciences

First place: Zachary Bloom, “Godzilla: An Asian Comparison”

Second place: Matthew Adams, “Ambulatory Asylum: Investigating new forms of protection provided by information and communications technology in the context of 21st century migrations”

Third place: Sarah Mohammed, “Brown Boxes: Exploring Cultural Identity in Different Global Contexts”

Poster Presentations


First place: Austin Murray, Tyler Smith, and Eric Pittman, “Development and Experimentation of a Lab-Scale Pulse Detonation Engine”

Second place: Dimitris Kiaoulias, “Evaluation of Injector Orifice Inlet Geometries through Cold-Flow Experiments”

Third place: Ivan Zvorsky, Nicholas Meyers, Justin Bhalla, and Sarah Ismail, “Evaluation of Liquid Propulsion System Design on Priming Event Pressure Levels”

Math, Security Risk Analysis, and Computing and Information Technology

First place: Chenzhang Zhou, “A numerical method for solving scalar ordinary differential equations based on adaptive quadratic Taylor approximations”

Second place: Sean Harrity, Mason Sosnoski, Nick Belfonti, and Brennan McKendree, “Maintaining Secure Cloud Computed Data with Minimal Performance Impacts”

Third place: Ryan Pipetti, Nicholas McIntyre, and Jonathan Todd, “An Analysis of IoT Framework: Security Threats and Challenges”

Health, Life, and Physical Sciences

First place: Michelle Smithbauer, “The effect of floral height on pollinator visitation in Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia)”

Second place: Rachel Mills and Krista Silvis, “The effect of habitat type on the growth and reproduction of the invasive New Zealand snail”

Third place: April Pancoast and Michelle Smithbauer, “Collection of Water Quality Data Along Mill Run, Spring Run, and Brush Run, in Blair County, Pennsylvania”

Arts and Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences

First place: Malaysia Dorsett and Meghan Smyers, “Preschool Classroom Child Care Environments and Their Association to Teacher Stress”

Second place: Alexandra Kuma and Ally Lenz, “Forgetting Rate and Cognitive Abilities”

Third place: Jacquelyn Tew, “The Effects of Socioeconomic Status on Arrest”


First place: Stephanie Knaub, “Cardiovascular Health Disparities Among Women”

Second place: Abby Stedding, “Breastfeeding or Bottle-Feeding in Regards to Immunity Development”

Third place: Stephanie Knaub, Maddie Duty, Rachael Kuntz, and Alyson Eck, “Antidepressant Use in the Elderly”


First place: Natasha Gibbons, Evolution Counseling Inc.
Second place: Allison Morgan, Family Services Inc.
Third place: Hei Tan Tracy Yu, Altoona Family Physicians

The University Libraries Award for Information Literacy

First place: Alexander Diehm, “Using Photoconductive Decay (PCD) to Measure Minority Carrier Lifetime In Semiconductors”