O.U.R. announces conference winners

Lamar University Office of Undergraduate Research is proud to announce the winners of the 8th Annual Texas STEM Conference.

The virtual conference held Sat., Oct. 24 set time, attendance and participant records. For 10 hours the
menna Elsaka
Menna Elsaka
conference hosted a continuous stream of presentations and featured speakers. The event was extremely competitive with 30 presentations and roughly 144 participants. 

“It is unprecedented to have such a large audience for any student talk in the Office of Undergraduate Research conferences,” said Dr. Cristian Bahrim, acting director of O.U.R. and a professor of physics. “It was our LU celebration of intellectual resilience to the difficulties we all face in a time of challenge due to a global pandemic and the most active hurricane season ever in the Gulf Coastal area. Despite these challenges, our students gave a superb lesson of commitment to achieve and excel.  We are all very proud of them.”

Presenters were distinguished by category and awards were given within the categories. Each presentation was assessed by seven faculty judges. Twenty judges were involved in scoring and ranking the presentations. Award winners are:


First place for Best STEM SURF presentation

Olivia Rigsby, geology major
Mentor: Dr. Edgardo Pujols, Department of Earth and Space Sciences
Project: “Onset of the Sevier Fold and Thrust Belt and Associated Foreland-Basin Sedimentation in Central Utah”

“I was very fortunate to be able to have a great mentor and to be able to work on such an interesting research project!” – Olivia Rigsby

“Olivia’s project provided new insight into the timing of Sevier Fold-and-Thrust belt deformation and basin evolution by studying the detrital and bedrock geochronometric record available from central Utah. During the summer, Olivia worked hard conducting mineral separation, calibrating laboratory equipment, compiling data from previous research and analyzing the new detrital geochronology data set produced in this study, which consisted of over 1000 zircon U-Pb ages. Throughout this process, Olivia showed that she possesses the drive and knowledge that is required to be a successful researcher and inspire her peers. Despite all the pandemic-related setbacks, we accomplished a lot and had fun in the process.” - Dr. Edgardo Pujols

Runner-up for Best STEM SURF Presentation
Talon Weaver, physics and civil engineering major
Mentor: Drs. Evgeny Romashets and Cristian Bahrim, Department of Physics
Project: “Studying the Dynamics of Interplanetary Magnetic Clouds using a Toroidal Coordinate System”

"I thoroughly enjoyed the content that was covered throughout the day and also the manner in which it was presented! The presenters, both professional and students did a great job at keeping my attention and making the endeavors interesting." – Talon Weaver

Runner-up for Best STEM SURF Presentation
Menna Elsaka, chemistry and biochemistry major
Mentor: Dr. Ashwini Kucknoor, Department of Biology
Project: “Akkermansia Muciniphila Correlation with Obesity and Metabolic Disorders”

“I am grateful for everything that I’ve learned from this project, it has been an ecstatic experience.” – Menna Elsaka

“It was very fulfilling to mentor Menna on this project. It has not only peaked her interest in the field of gut immunobiology, but it also has instilled the hunger for research in her.” – Dr. Ashwini Kucknoor


Best Presentation in the Session of Graduate Research at LU

Divine Sebastian
Dr. Chun-Wei Yao, Divine Sebastian
First place for Best Graduate Presentation
Divine Sebastian, Department of Mechanical Engineering
Mentor: Dr. Chun-Wei Yao, Department of mechanical Engineering
Paper: “Study of the Mechanical Properties, Wettability, and Corrosion Resistance of a Superhydrophobic Nanocomposite Coating”

"The coatings that I am developing have a wide range of applications in the industry and hence it is very essential to validate the significance and advantages of the same. The feedback and response from the attendees on my research help me to identify the current demands and challenges because of the multidisciplinary nature of the research community in the STEM conference. Recognition for my research in addition to the chance to share my work is a great honor as well as motivation for me."- Divine Sebastian

 “With Divine's great contribution, my group has been able to publish several journal articles in renowned SCI journals, including Applied Surface Science. His research work in the area of enhanced corrosion resistance using novel superhydrophobic coating has been praised by many in the engineering community.” - Dr. Chun-Wei Yao:  

Runner-up for Best Presentation in the Session of Graduate Research at LU
Sayeda Farzana Aktar, Department of Computer Science
Mentor:  Dr. Stefan Andrei, Department of Computer Science
Paper: “Classification of Heart Diseases using a Stethoscope-based Heart Sound method”
Sayeda Farzana Aktar
Sayeda Farzana Aktar

“I want to say, ‘Thank you, 8th STEM conference committee!’ for giving me an opportunity to share our research with others." – Sayeda Farzana Aktar


First place for Best Undergraduate Presentation
Emily Ingram, chemistry and biochemistry major
Mentor: Dr. Ozge Gunaydin-Sen, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Paper: “Effects of Entry-level chemistry courses in STEM majors”
Co-authors: Berna Eren-Tokgoz2, Ashikur Rahman Abid2, Morshedul Alam2, and Mamta Singh3
2 Department of Industrial and System Engineering; 3 Department of Teacher Education

"My research has taught me to not give in to failure because you are capable of anything if you set your mind to it, and I will forever be grateful to my mentor and the O.U.R. for my undergraduate research experience." – Emily Ingram

“I really enjoyed having Emily as my student, she is more like family to me.  I am very proud of her! I will always help her whenever she needs. I am very positive that she will be very successful and one day we will invite her to influence our students. The research we focused on at this time was related to student success in gatekeeper courses, in our case General Chemistry I and II, and its effect on retention in STEM fields.  It is collaborative work with Dr. Tokgoz and Dr. Singh.”

Runner-up for Best Undergraduate Presentation
Hannah Thompson, biology major
Mentor: Dr. Maryam Vasefi, Department of Biology
Paper: “A Structured Intervention for Cognitive Decline”