UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State University Libraries awards recognized three outstanding undergraduate thesis authors as well as one graduate student and nine undergraduate student researchers, all exhibiting exemplary scholarly research methods and communication at University Park campus presentations this spring.
The University Libraries offers annual prizes to recognize excellence in aspects of scholarly research through the Outstanding Undergraduate Thesis Award, the Undergraduate Research Award: Excellence in Information Literacy, and the Data Visualization Award.
Outstanding Undergraduate Thesis Award
The 2019 Outstanding Undergraduate Thesis Award, presented by the University Libraries and the Schreyer Honors College, is a competition that aims to recognize the best thesis submitted by an undergraduate that is grounded in quality research and employs accepted research practices and documentation. The Libraries initiated the award to emphasize the importance of utilizing quality research methods and employing a thorough understanding of the legal and ethical issues related to the use of information — both key components of academic excellence.
Three finalists, all Schreyer Honors College Scholars graduating in spring 2019, were selected to present their research during a public presentation held on Thursday, May 2, in Foster Auditorium, 103 Paterno Library:
- Erika Pugh, a Russian and finance dual major in the College of the Liberal Arts and Smeal College of Business, respectively, was awarded first place and a prize of $1,250 for her thesis, “The Rise, Fall and Renaissance of Shostakovich’s Third Ballet: Reconciling ‘The Bright Stream’ with Post-Soviet Culture.”
- Sarah McKenna, a history and political science dual major in the College of the Liberal Arts, received second place and $750 for her thesis, “Analyzing ‘Detrimental Psychological Harm’: Social Science Evidence and Segregation in the Supreme Court Post-1950.”
- Alexis Gawelko, a civil engineering major in the College of Engineering, was awarded third place and $500 for her thesis, “Can Meta-Soil Attenuate Seismic Waves?”
McKenna and Pugh also are Paterno Fellows, a program of the College of the Liberal Arts.
Undergraduate Research Award: Excellence in Information Literacy
The University Libraries honored seven individual undergraduate researchers from the University Park campus and a two-person research team of Penn State Altoona students with the Libraries’ Undergraduate Research Award: Excellence in Information Literacy. Recipients of the John Sr. and Kimlyn Patishnock Grand Prize, plus first, second and third prizes and four honorable mentions, were selected following judging of all entrants submitting research posters at the Undergraduate Exhibition, held April 17 on the University Park campus.
The honorees were among 105 students across 19 campuses University-wide who received this award from the University Libraries this spring.
“We are so impressed with the undergraduate research we saw at this year’s exhibition. Our judges had great conversations with student presenters on the research process and how the Libraries supported their work,” said Hailley Fargo, student engagement and outreach librarian and University-wide coordinator of the Libraries’ Undergraduate Research Award. “It was a tough decision to choose our winners, but we feel that the projects we selected represent the wide range of undergraduate research that happens at Penn State.”
- Cuyler Luck, a junior microbiology major, received the John Sr. and Kimlyn Patishnock Grand Prize for his research, “Identifying Drug-Drug Interactions Between Experimental Antimalarials.”
- Brady Houtz, a senior biomedical engineering major, received first place for “Effects of elevated beat rate on the hemodynamics of the Penn State pediatric ventricular assist device.”
- Stefan Horgas, a senior security and risk analysis major, was presented second place for “Virtual Teams Review: An Exploration of the Multifaceted Nature of Team Virtuality.”
- Marisa Vanness, a senior international politics major, received third place for “Women's Protest and Health in the International Sphere.”
Honorable mentions were awarded to:
- Hannah Griffin, senior Italian and psychology dual major, for “Influences of Italian Colonial Media on Perceptions of Immigrants Today”;
- Kushagra Kumar, junior biochemistry and molecular biology major, for “Testing Potential Inhibitors of the Sigma E Pathway in Escherichia Coli”;
- Penn State Altoona students Peyton Loomis, a junior environmental science major, and Kristin Newvine, a junior history major, for “Princesses and Princessing: The Sociology of Making Magic”; and
- Philip Zachariah, senior biology major, for “A Fly on the Wall: Bridging the Gap Between Penn State Research Laboratories and the Student Community.”
Data Visualization Award
At Penn State’s 2019 Graduate Exhibition, held March 22 and 24, Anahita Bharadwaj, a doctoral student studying agricultural and biological engineering, was selected to receive the Data Visualization Award, presented by the University Libraries’ Data Learning Center, for her research poster “Accelerating lignocellulosic anaerobic digestion by cotreatment.” Bharadwaj’s research poster will be made available through ScholarSphere, Penn State’s institutional repository.
The Data Learning Center, part of the Libraries’ Department of Research Informatics and Publishing, aims to inspire intellectual discovery by providing services to help users transform data into information. Its Data Visualization Award is designed to increase digital information literacy by raising awareness of the importance of data visualization and celebrating good examples.