This program supports eight weeks of full-time research, scholarly, and creative activities. Each fellowship provides a student stipend, a faculty stipend, and travel, supplies, and/or equipment to support the project.
For more information, please visit: https://undergraduateresearch.buffalostate.edu/usrf
Rakia Akter, Childhood Education
Faculty Mentor: Professor Pixita del Prado Hill, School of Education
Rakia is a senior in Childhood Education expecting to graduate in spring 2020. She is passionate about developing trauma-informed practices and building resiliency amongst elementary-level students. After graduation, she will continue to pursue a Master’s degree in the TESOL program at SUNY Buffalo State. She hopes that her education and background will serve as an advantage in helping students in the Buffalo Public School system.
During her fellowship, Rakia studied the Burmese immigrant experience in Buffalo and developed a toolkit of resources to address the specific trauma that children from this group have experienced. Rakia’s research topic was inspired by a summer service-learning program in Myanmar and her neighborhood in Buffalo, which includes a growing number of Burmese refugees. Her project was accepted for presentation at the 2020 SUNY Undergraduate Research Conference, and she has presented for the School of Education at various Professional Development Schools (PDS) events, including the NAPDS-National Association for Professional Development Schools annual conference in Atlantic City in February 2020.
Adrianna Aviles, Writing & Business Administration
Faculty Mentor: Professor Michele Ninacs, English
Adrianna is a senior pursuing a dual-degree: a Bachelor of Arts in Writing, a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing, and a minor in Literary Studies. After graduating in spring 2020, she will enter the M.A. program in Critical Studies in Literacy and Pedagogy at Michigan State University with an Academic Achievement Graduate Assistantships (AAGA) fellowship, which is awarded by MSU to 75 Masters or Ph.D. candidates throughout the institution. She plans to continue her studies in a Ph.D. program.
During her fellowship, Adrianna explored cultural rhetorics and its connection with language. As someone who has loved writing but not in the creative form, Adrianna was introduced to the field of Composition and Rhetorics by her advisor. As a Latina, she is aware that Standard American English practices can be both implicitly and explicitly racist and by extension can disenfranchise minority communities. Her study examined the role of cultural rhetorics and its association with writing pedagogy, by analyzing the responses of scholars in the field to a series of questions that asked them to consider the position of cultural rhetorics in relation to composition studies and pedagogies.
Nicholas Boyer, Philosophy & English
Faculty Mentor: Professor Lorna Perez, English
Nicholas is a double-major in Philosophy and English who expects to graduate in spring 2020. After six years of active duty in the USAF, Nicholas left military service in order to seek a more peaceful way of serving the world and those who occupy it, by decreasing violence and the oppression of Others. He will continue on to graduate school with plans of seeking his Ph.D.
As a fan of sci-fi and fantasy novels, Nicholas spent his fellowship researching Black Speculative Fiction. His work examines Octavia Butler’s Kindred alongside Nalo Hopkinson’s Brown Girl in the Ring. While Kindred uses devices of time travel to reveal the ways that the past always intrudes upon the present, Brown Girl in the Ring is set in a dystopic near future, in an urban Toronto devastated by poverty, white flight, addiction, and violence. In the midst of this, the characters use the powers of the spirituality, rooted in African diasporic experiences, to resist and survive in an urban wasteland. In both, young black female protagonists are forced to confront, literally and figuratively, the violence of their forefathers, and conquer them in order to ensure their own survival. Nicholas’s research examines these battles with the past, and with the patriarchal figures in the novel, using thinkers like Franz Fanon, Toni Morrison, Ytasha L. Womack, Reynaldo Anderson and Charles E. Jones, and André M. Carrington, among others.
The Loot of the Land: Mapping Out the Relationship Between Natural Resources and Sexual Violence
Jennifer Briones, International Relations
Faculty Mentor: Professor Kyeonghi Baek, Political Science
Jennifer is a senior in International Relations expecting to graduate in spring 2020. Throughout her time at Buffalo State, has maintained an interest in researching sexual violence in international conflict. Jennifer recognizes faculty mentors Dr. Kyeonghi Baek and Dr. Mehwish Sarwari as inspirations throughout her undergraduate career, and intends to pursue a Ph.D. in Political Science at Michigan State University in the hope of inspiring future undergraduate students herself.
During the fellowship, Jennifer also researched natural resource presence and its impact on impacted sexual violence throughout conflict. She delved into the field of Africana Studies by incorporating natural resources as a potential causal mechanism of conflict in Africa, using the Democratic Republic of Congo as a case study. Jennifer presented on a panel at the 44th annual National Council for Black Studies (NCBS) conference in Atlanta, and was accepted to present at the 2020 International Studies Association (ISA) annual conference in Honolulu.
Carleigh Cimmerer, Forensic Chemistry
Faculty Mentor: Professor Jinseok Heo, Chemistry
Carleigh is a senior in Forensic Chemistry expecting to graduate in spring 2020. She has been interested in applying spectroscopic methods for chemical analysis. Carleigh has been recently accepted to the MS program in Forensic Science at Buffalo State College. After having finished her Master’s degree, she plans to work as a lab scientist in a forensic laboratory.
Through her summer research, Carleigh found that the molecular size of capping agents played a critical role in the freezing-induced aggregation of gold nanoparticles (AuNPs). This result will not only help understand the mechanism of the formation of AuNP clusters by the freezing method but also design surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) substrates that work optimally in the near-IR region. Her research was accepted for presentation at the 2020 Undergraduate Symposium of the American Chemical Society-Western New York Section.
Kristin Czajka, Biopsychology
Faculty Mentor: Professor Naomi McKay, Psychology
Kristin is a senior Biopsychology major and Biology minor who will be graduating in spring 2020. She was a departmental senior awards finalist and is expecting to graduate with high honors. She is interested in the study of brain pathology. After graduation, she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in neuroscience and to focus her post-doctoral research on neurodegenerative diseases.
During her fellowship, Kristin found that salivary alpha amylase was an effective biomarker in place of salivary cortisol in cohorts that display a blunted cortisol response to stress. Furthermore, she found that body mass index (BMI) had an impact on salivary alpha amylase levels and that those that were overweight/obese did not physiologically respond to stress in the same manner as normal weight individuals. Her research has been submitted to the Journal of Pyschoneuroendocrinology for publication in April 2020.
Michael Grey, Physics
Faculty Mentor: Professor Ram Rai, Physics
Michael is a junior in physics and is expecting to graduate in the Spring of 2021. After graduation, he plans to pursue a graduate degree in physics or applied physics. This summer, Michael will be applying for an internship at CERN in Switzerland. Following completion of his graduate degree, he hopes to either work for NASA or at CERN with their Large Hadron Collider, which holds his interest.
During his fellowship, Michael synthesized Mn4Ta2O9 and deposited thin films from the synthesized compound. These thin films were found to have an antiferromagnetic transition temperature at approximately 137 K, which is higher than the expected temperature of approximately 102 K. Due to only containing ~40% Mn4Ta2O9 within the compound, it is possible that either the multiple phases affected the transition temperature or the strain effect in the thin film. Michael also synthesized a 99% pure Mn4Nb2O9 compound. Future research will focus on improving the synthesis process to achieve ~99% purity of Mn4Ta2O9.
Haley Hughes, Exceptional Education
Faculty Mentor: Professor Dr. Shannon Budin, Exceptional Education
Haley is a junior in Exceptional Education who expects to graduate in 2022. She has had an interest in working with students with learning disabilities and associated research. Following graduation, Haley aspires to become a Special Education teacher.
During her fellowship, Haley found research supporting assertions that there is a stigma attached to learning disabilities (LD). Several themes and common issues faced by these students emerged from the study. In many, but not all, cases there were negative social outcomes for students as a result. Haley presented for the School of Education at the annual Professional Development Schools (PDS) Consortium in the fall of 2019 and has completed a comprehensive literature review from her research fellowship findings. A second phase of Haley’s research is now in process, where students with LD and their teachers will share their personal experiences and perceptions related to the issues identified in the review of literature.
Katherine Jastrzab, Dietetics
Faculty Mentor: Professor Tina Colaizzo-Anas, Dietitian Education Program
Katherine is a senior in the Dietitian Education Program expecting to graduate this spring. She is interested in cancer prevention, oncology nutrition, and diet education for cancer survivors. After graduation, she plans to pursue a career in oncology dietetics and a Master’s degree in Public Health.
During her fellowship, Katherine provided educational grocery store tours to cancer survivors with the goal of increasing their adherence to the American Institute for Cancer Research’s (AICR) recommendations for survivors. The participants’ dietary intakes were measured before and one month after the grocery store tour. Participants were shown to have intakes of increased fruit/fruit juice, decreased saturated fat, and decreased added sugar following the tour, dietary changes associated with a closer adherence to the AICR’s recommendations. Katherine plans to continue researching the relationship between nutrition and cancer survivorship.
Kenneth Kelly, English
Faculty Mentor: Professor Macy Todd, English
Kenneth is a senior majoring in English and expecting to graduate in the spring of 2020. His focus has primarily been in studies of Caribbean Literature, Afrocentric Thought, and African rooted folk tales. Upon completion of his Bachelor's degree, he will pursue a Master’s degree at the University of Chicago and intends to complete his academic career with a Ph.D. in English.
During his research, Ken found clear parallels between southern African American, Bahamian, and Yoruban folktales. These indicate social and cultural connectors that further unify Afrocentric thinkers, those who subscribe to Pan-Afro thought, and Black individuals whose cultural and ethnic heritage are rooted in African tradition. Through studying folklorist and nineteenth-century poets, Kenneth found specific methods within their records and poems that highlight oppressive Eurocentric literary functions. His research revealed how concepts of Pan-Afro thought can be utilized within varying Eurocentric institutions to give agency and provide unity amongst Black individuals and underrepresented peoples who exist within them. He intends to propose his work for publication.
Kayla Kopinski, Geology
Faculty Mentor: Professor Gary Solar, Earth Sciences
Kayla is a senior Geology major who will be graduating in spring 2020. She plans to attend graduate school in Geology.
During her fellowship, Kayla documented the metamorphic-deformation combination recorded in rocks that were at the edge of ancient North America approximately 300 million years ago, but now exposed in coastal Maine. Kayla documented the microstructures in the rocks where older mineral patterns are preserved inside larger crystals. The older patterns do not match the geometry of the bulk rock patterns, thereby signifying an earlier continental collision whose mineral patterns were replaced by new mineral growth during a later collision (about 100 million years later). Kayla was selected to present these results at the Geological Society of America Combined Northeastern and Southeastern Regional annual meeting in Reston, Virginia in March 2020.
Julianna Kraft, Hospitality and Tourism
Faculty Mentor: Professor Chenchen Huang, Bussiness
Julianna is a junior in Hotel Tourism Management expecting to graduate in spring 2021. She has been interested in sustainability and environmental stewardship in the hospitality industry for many years. After graduation, Julianna hopes to complete a Fulbright Scholarship in South Korea and to pursue working internationally in the tourism industry.
During her fellowship, Julianna discovered that sustainability is a growing movement within the hospitality curriculum and that a holistic incorporation is the most prevalent approach. After collecting course information from 66 accredited programs, she created a scorecard that compared Buffalo State‘s program to that of 13 peer institutions. She discovered that while Buffalo State scored low on a visible sustainable curriculum, she found it could compete with its initiatives among individual faculty inside and outside the classroom.
Kayla Lackie, Fashion and Textile Technology
Faculty Mentor: Professor Arlesa Shephard, Fashion and Textile Technology
Kayla is a senior majoring in Textile Design and expects to graduate in Spring 2020. She is interested in historic textiles as inspiration for contemporary designs and has developed a collection of textile designs as a result of this project. After graduation, she plans to work as a textile designer for an established company, specializing in either swimwear or interior fabric design.
During her fellowship, Kayla applied practice-led methodology to research and create textile designs. Kayla and her mentor, Dr. Shephard, conducted research at several archives through the Western New York and New England areas. The research was documented and analyzed following each museum visit and design session. Kayla has developed a portfolio of textile designs based on these inspirations. This research was accepted for presentation at the annual symposium of the Costume Society of America, a professional organization dedicated to the study of dress history.
Marisa Marinelli, English and Philosophy
Faculty Mentor: Professor Jason Grinnell, Philosophy
Marisa is a December 2019 Buffalo State graduate who majored in English and Philosophy. She is currently taking a gap year to decide whether to continue on to graduate school in one of the two disciplines, or to pursue law school.
During her fellowship, Marisa read and wrote extensively on different theories of justice and their real-world implications in the United States. She discovered that the application of John Rawls’ theory can be helpful in pointing out racial injustices present in fundamental aspects of the American criminal justice system today. Marisa has an academic paper pending on her research on theory and practice in institutional policy in the United States.
Connor McGrath, Biology
Faculty Mentor: Professor Gavin Leighton, Biology
Connor is a junior in Biology scheduled to graduate in spring 2021. After graduation, he is interested in pursuing further education in the field of Biology. He has had a lifelong interest in zoology and plans to pursue a career in the field. He also has a strong interest in illustration, which was an important aspect of his research project methods. Researching woodpecker plumage and behavior was his first formal research study.
During his fellowship, Connor found that the correlation between model placement on bird feeders and the resultant bird activity appear to be governed both by the presence of a woodpecker model, but also the species of birds interacting with the model. The species-specific effect may be due to differences in dominance between the woodpecker species and the third-party species. Some birds, such as grackles, are more dominant than Downy woodpeckers but less dominant than Hairy woodpeckers, and thus have learned to disregard smaller models, despite the similar appearance of the two. In contrast, other, smaller birds, such as house sparrows, reacted similarly to both models, hinting at a low enough level of dominance to fear white and black woodpeckers in general, regardless of size. These patterns display a greater complexity of effects of mimicry, in that not all birds respond to mimicry in the same way. Connor’s conclusions raise further questions about possible target species for the effects of this phenotype.
Taylor Seymour, Philosophy
Faculty Mentor: Professor John Torrey, Philosophy
Taylor is a senior in philosophy and English expecting to graduate in spring 2020. She has been interested in pursuing law, specifically family law, in order to help young children. After graduation, she plans to pursue a J.D. degree and aspires to practice law for the benefit of children.
During her fellowship, Taylor created a week-long philosophy summer camp program designed to expose pre-college students to tools, problems, and concepts in philosophy, based on a “learner-centered” teaching method. During the course of the program, she observed the benefits and issues with this method of teaching, in addition to focusing on which philosophical material the students gravitated to the most. She found the students participated enthusiastically in all aspects of the program, but seemed specifically interested in ethics, which helped them form their own beliefs and have a better understanding of others.
Jon Shaffer, Mechanical Engineering Technology
Faculty Mentor: Professor Saquib Ahmed, Mechanical Engineering Technology
Jon is a senior in the Mechanical Engineering Technology program who is expecting to graduate in the spring of 2020. He is interested in the fabrication and mechanics of perovskite solar absorbers as well as piezoelectronics. After graduation, he is looking to either pursue a Master’s degree in Nanomaterials or possibly moving into the private sector to continue his solar research.
During his fellowship, Jon familiarized himself with a solar simulation software known as SCAPS in an attempt to further his understanding of perovskite cells. Using this software, he is now able to calculate and tabulate the electrical and optical properties of theoretical perovskite structures, which will give way to finding the most efficient stackup in a lab setting. Examples of this work done by him using a simpler software have been published in three different academic journals, and presented twice last year at each meeting of the Materials Research Society. Jon’s research earned him an internship at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, working with the Center for Nanoscale Technology and Science from January through April 2020.
Ryan Tetreault, PSY 496: Honors Thesis I
Faculty Mentor: Professor Robert Delprino, Psychology
Ryan is a senior Psychology major who is graduating in spring 2020. After graduation, he plans to pursue his interest in the overlap between psychological theory and business in graduate school. He aspires to a career in business consulting, where his knowledge in psychology can be applied in areas such as organizational behavior, business strategy, and management.
The fellowship afforded Ryan the opportunity to create a research-based survey that measured the work and manager preferences held by students and employees. Following an in-depth literature review and survey development, he recruited students at Buffalo State as subjects for data collection and analysis of comparative responses based on academic major. A significant finding was that inadequate feelings of connection at college were related to reports of dissatisfaction with life. Ryan’s research results were accepted for presentation at the annual Eastern Psychological Association (EPA) conference, which will take place digitally in June 2020.
Andrea Vines, Biology
Faculty Mentor: Professor Derek Beahm, Biology
Andrea is a senior Biology major with a minor in Chemistry, and expects to graduate in Spring 2020. After graduation, she plans to pursue her research interests in molecular and cell biology during a gap year before attending medical school.
During her fellowship, Andrea made an important laboratory discovery by demonstrating that the ability of CHO cells to communicate through gap junction channels was highly sensitive to the age of the cell monolayer. This discovery provided a long-sought explanation for discrepancies in the data of other student projects conducted over the last two years. Andrea also demonstrated that gap junction assembly in CHO cells could be dramatically enhanced by increasing total membrane protein levels whereas reducing potential steric or electrostatic hindrance to gap junction formation was ineffective in making the cells communicate more. These findings will be investigated further by future students, with the intent of publishing results incorporating Andrea’s contribution in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
Melique Young, Psychology
Faculty Mentor: Professor Jevon Hunter, School of Education
Melique expects to graduate with a B.A. in Psychology in May 2021 and intends to pursue a Ph.D. in Psychology. Professionally, he plans to serve his community by using his expertise and talents to work with people who have been diagnosed with mental illness.
During his fellowship, Melique performed a qualitative research study exploring the racialized educational identity development among Buffalo’s African-American adolescents. His work leveraged the concept of Nigrescence from Black Psychology to unearth the counter-stories of local Black youth in an effort to learn whether there was a relationship between their schooling experiences and identity development. His findings suggested that Buffalo’s African-American adolescents viewed a consequential disconnect between schooling practices and their identity. As a result of his research, Melique offered some recommendations that could strengthen the connection between Black youth and school practices. He presented his research at the 2019 Professional Development Schools (PDS) Consortium hosted by SUNY Buffalo State, and also presented on a panel at the 44th annual National Council for Black Studies (NCBS) conference in Atlanta in 2020.