Students share research via Virtual Symposium

KENNESAW, Ga. | Apr 17, 2020

Nearly 350 students participate showcasing the diversity of research at KSU

The 24th annual Symposium of Student Scholars, hosted by the Office of Undergraduate Research, was held virtually for the first time as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that students would not miss out on valuable experiential learning opportunities. The event is held each year to give undergraduate and graduate researchers from all disciplines at Kennesaw State University the opportunity to present their work to a wider audience.

“I was a little nervous about how a virtual symposium would be, but it appears as though it was quite a success,” said Amy Buddie, director of undergraduate research and the event organizer.  “The student presenters deserve all the credit – they acted as though they'd been doing this for years. They were very adept with the technology, and they were professional, well-spoken, and prepared.”

The Symposium of Student Scholars attracted the KSU community, as well as external guests. Judges, made up of faculty, staff, and graduate students, evaluated the presentations to recognize the best presenters with prize awards. 

Christopher Cornelison, associate director of undergraduate research, also credits the 99 faculty mentors and 90 judges for adapting to this new virtual format. 

“Obviously, we all wish we could have been together in the same space for this event, but I'm so glad we were able to still see the amazing work our students have been doing over the past year,” said Cornelison, also director of intellectual property development in the Office of Research.

Throughout the event, a live blog was updated by the Office of Undergraduate Research to showcase several presentations, ranging from architecture to psychology.

Hala Alfalih, whose research aims to design a small habitat on the surface of Mars, said that in the field of design, research has high importance. Alfalih, an architecture major, said design cannot always be applied in different environments and result in the same outcomes.

“Being educated in design does not make you informed about things like climate change, politics, and economics, but that should not stop us from using what we do know to collaborate with other disciplines and apply innovative and creative solutions together,” she said. “This requires an immense amount of research.”

Several students received awards for their research at the conclusion of the symposium. These awards included:

  • Top Presentation, Undergraduate: Detection and Identification of Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi and Surrounding Microbiome in Two Riparian Tree Species (Undergraduate Students: Lindsey Gard, Sarah Andrews, Brian Sassi, Grace Krueger, Tori Quillen, Ian Thomasson, Josh Inneh, Daphney Fievre, Sara Grimm, Geoffrey Eger; Research Mentors: Paula Jackson, Thomas McElroy, Joel McNeal, Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology)
  • First Runner-Up, Undergraduate: The Model Holistic: The Application of the Adaptive Cycle to Rust-Belt Cities (Undergraduate Student: Marysia LaRosa; Research Mentors: Edwin Akins, Elizabeth Martin-Malikian, Department of Architecture)
  • Second Runner-Up, Undergraduate: Blade Optimization for Ground Level Low Speed Wind Turbines (Undergraduate Student: Ryan Foster; Research Mentor: Adeel Khalid, Department of Systems and Industrial Engineering)
  • Top Presentation, Graduate: A Simulation of the Dangerous Spread of COVID-19 Without Isolation (Graduate Student: Kory Illenye; Research Mentor: Joe DeMaio, Department of Statistics and Analytical Sciences)
  • First Runner-Up, Graduate: Sex Differences in Plantar Flexor Strength and Contractile Properties after Isometric and Dynamic Fatigue (Graduate Students: Phuong L. Ha, Benjamin E. Dalton, Michaela G. Alesi; Undergraduate Students: Tyler M. Smith, Anna G. Conroy; Research Mentors: Garrett M. Hester, Trisha A. VanDusseldorp, Yuri Feito, Department of Exercise Science and Sport Management)
  • Second Runner-Up, Graduate: Wrongful Convictions and False Confessions: An Analysis of Exoneration Cases (Graduate Students: Alex Goldstein, Amber Goden; Undergraduate Students: Dana Bowen; Research Mentor: Jennifer Willard, Department of Psychological Science)

Jennifer Willard, associate chair of the Department of Psychological Science and professor of psychology, was honored with the inaugural Outstanding Undergraduate Research Mentor Award. Since she joined the KSU faculty in 2008, Willard has mentored more than 50 undergraduate researchers. She also has coordinated the annual Georgia Undergraduate Research in Psychology (GURP) conference for the last nine years, which has grown tremendously under her leadership.

As three of Willard’s students wrote in the nominating application: “Whether it be by being a student in her class, her teaching assistant, or a research assistant in her lab, it is not a stretch to say that she has been the most influential mentor we have had during our entire education.”

Cadi Martin’s project, Exploring Cedar Songmaker's Native Identity in Louise Erdrich's Future Home of the Living God, won the Undergraduate Research Award from the KSU Library System and the Office of Undergraduate Research, which is given annually to a student demonstrating effective research processes and successful use of library resources. She worked under the mentorship of Miriam Brown Spiers in English and Interdisciplinary Studies.

—Geena Lawrence and Landon Mion

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit