Office of Undergraduate Research announces winners of 9th annual EXPO

The Office of Undergraduate Research has named the winners of the 9th annual Undergraduate Research & creative Activity Expo, which was held on Wednesday, April 18. The EXPO is an annual showcase of undergraduate research that includes poster presentations and talks, LU alumni guest speakers, awards and prizes for best poster presentations.

“We had more than 60 graduate and undergraduate students from Lamar University and other schools from Texas, such as UT Arlington, UT Austin and Tarleton University that presented this year. This was the first time that students from outside LU have presented at our EXPO,” said Dr. Christian Bahrim, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research. “In addition to 15 talks offered by OUR grant winners, the EXPO 2022 showcased research from of aerospace engineering, audiology, biology, chemistry, communication and media, history, construction management, industrial and environmental engineering, mechanical engineering, nursing, physics and political science presented in 24 posters and 33 talks. We warmly welcomed our guest speakers: Dr. Wei Chen from UT Arlington, Dr. William Miller from Baker University, Dr. Paul Rizk from University of Florida and Dr. Lauren Richardson from UTMB – Galveston. All the plenary talks were fantastic!”

With more than 300 attendees during the 10-hour long conference, the 16 winners of various awards were selected by 23 judges and will be recognized at the Office of Undergraduate Research EXPO Awards Ceremony on May 3 in Landes Auditorium of the Galloway Business Building.


Best Presentation for OUR Research:

Angel FlowersFirst place: Angel Flowers, biology major
“The O.U.R. grant has provided me with an amazing opportunity to learn research techniques and practical applications of laboratory methods. The skills that I developed by doing this research as an undergraduate will only serve to prepare me for future endeavors. I plan to build upon the foundation of assets that my research has provided in order to become a better scientist and to build a career from scientific research.”

Second place: Kalen Baker, mechanical engineering and mathematics major

Kalen Baker“The Office of Undergraduate Research has greatly assisted me in advancing my research, much faster than I ever could have by myself and honed skills that can only be used through practice and critical thinking. More importantly working and presenting with my peers has enriched my education more than my class work ever could. And allowed me to consider new ideas and that I would not have encountered otherwise. The opportunity afforded me was made even more rewarding by being allowed to share what we’ve accomplished with the public.”

Third place: Damaris Thrash, exercise science major

demaris-thrash"Ever since I was a child, music and exercise have been two things I hold close to my heart.  When my mentor told me she was considering conducting an experiment analyzing music’s physiological impacts on exercise, it seemed like an opportunity to study my interests.  It is an experience that has not disappointed me – I’ve observed different aspects of exercise, to which all previous exposure was taught inside a classroom and have become confident in skills such as taking blood pressure or using a metabolic cart.  My involvement in this study has also made my love for research grow tremendously." 


Best Talks for Non-OUR Research:

First place: Hallie Svir, communication studies major

hallie-svir-our-expo“I first encountered Hallie in the Communication Capstone course. I was impressed with the passion and dedication she exhibited toward her project and, upon seeing the work she presented after 8-weeks, I asked if she would like to perform a full research study. I am in awe of how deeply dedicated she is to her research interests and how much she has accomplished in such a short time. Hallie is self-driven, highly motivated, and open to feedback. She is a joy to work with and I cannot wait to see what she accomplishes in her future research. -Dr. Sheila Springer.” - Dr. Sheila Springer, instructor of communications and faculty research mentor

Runner Up: Madeline Doughty, speech and hearing sciences major

madeline-doughty“Ms. Doughty demonstrated great perseverance, initiative, and motivation to learn about the research process and was confident to present during the EXPO 2022 about her project related to the awareness of noise-induced hearing loss among college band students. I am very pleased to act as Ms. Doughty’s mentor and I am sure she will shine, and present soon very interesting aspects related to this project.” - Dr. Lilian Felipe, assistant professor of speech and hearing and faculty research mentor

In-progress category:

First place: Rachel Hellums, communication studies major

“When I read Rachel's original paper in my class, I thought "what an interesting research topic," so I included a note telling her I would love to help her submit it for the Expo. Much to my delight, she took me up on the offer. It quickly became evident this is a passion project for her, and I am excited to say she is planning to continue to develop it further. I look forward to seeing her final product!” - Dr. Nicki Michalski, associate professor of communication and faculty research mentor

Second place: Lindsey Chirafis  political science major

Lindsey Chirafis“It has been my honor to serve as undergraduate research mentor to Lindsey Chirafis for both the research she presented on gender disparities in criminal sentencing at the Fall 2021 HASBSEB Conference and her research on the Supreme Court's rulings on passive and active assisted suicide at the Spring 2022 Research Expo in which she earned second place Best Presentation. I look very forward to watching Lindsey continue her research and participate in future conferences sponsored by Lamar and professional organizations in our discipline. Students like Lindsey reinforce my decision to become an active research mentor to Lamar's amazing undergraduate scholars.” - Dr. Terri Davis, LU political science professor and faculty research mentor 

Third place:  Shelby Graham, English major 

Shelby Graham“The research I mentored with Shelby Graham demonstrates the importance of interdisciplinary research and collaboration between faculty and students. Shelby, an English major, held an interest in constitutional law and took my advanced course on the topic in Spring 2022. We sought to combine our respective disciplines, interests, and knowledge to produce her work on constitutionalism and censorship of literature in the U. S. I am extremely proud of her intellectual curiosity, interdisciplinary pursuit of knowledge, and third place award for Best Presentation at the Spring 2022 Expo.” - Dr. Terri Davis, LU political science professor and faculty research mentor 


Winner:  Taryn Gibbs, physics and chemistry major

Taryn Gibbs“Taryn is a very independent undergraduate student, and she has been working on a medicinal chemistry project related to flavonoid compounds.  These are natural compounds in fruits and vegetables that have anti-cancer, anti-atherosclerosis and neuroprotective activities.  I believe she made a very nice contribution to EXPO with her presentation.” - Dr. William Whaley, faculty research mentor 



Best Posters 

Early phase category:  

Winner:  Brandyn Wagstaff, construction management major

Brandyn Wagstaff“Although Brandyn has been so busy with his coursework and his construction management job, he was able to successfully lead and complete this early-concept student research work in three months. He is a great example of our hardworking students who will soon become the leaders in our construction management industry. I am so proud of Brandyn and our construction management students.” - Dr. Zhe Luo, assistant professor of construction management and faculty research mentor

In-progress category:    

First place:  Jesus Esquivel, chemistry major

Jesse EsquivelJesus is one of our senior Forensic Chemistry very interested in a career in the Forensic sciences. He approached me in Spring 2021 with an interest in starting a research project in Summer. We designed a project that would help him understand and develop skills using instrumentation very common in the analysis of chemicals. He enthusiastically jumped into the project and made great strides towards developing a methodology using available instruments. He is so diligent and eager to learn that he continues the project until now. I am extremely pleased that through this award, we can recognize his efforts and personal development. Well-deserved.” - Dr. Paul Bernazzani, professor of chemistry and faculty research mentor

Second place: Joshua Smith, biology and chemistry major

Joshua SmithWorking on my research here at Lamar University with Dr. Twagirayezu has  been a great honor. The fascinating science I have been able to study and come to understand follows second only to the amazing connections I have been fortunate enough to make within the scientific community through being involved in this project. The 2022 Expo, hosted by Dr. Bahrim, is the perfect example of an environment that encourages the formation of these outstanding connections, and it was a wonderful privilege of mine to be involved.”

Third place:  Daniel Nicks, chemical engineering major

Daniel NicksI am honored to have been a part of the Undergraduate Research Expo and have my efforts recognized by the judges. I am extremely grateful to my two mentors, Dr. Doranga and Dr. Zhou, who have guided me to this success. I am also thankful for my fantastic team members who helped shape this project into what it is now. This opportunity will open doors for me in the future and has helped me direct where I want to take my career.”



Winner:  Bethany Edwards, nursing major

Bethany EdwardsIt has been an honor to present my research about the effects of COVID-19 on nurses in Texas. I am very grateful for the opportunity to spread awareness about the current reality of the nursing profession. This research has led me to think more about the importance of patient and self-advocacy, self-care, and personal reflection in the healthcare field. I have learned so much that I will carry into my practice as a future Registered Nurse. Thank you to Lori Wenner for mentoring me throughout my research and to the Office of Undergraduate Research for organizing such an amazing event.”

 Runner-up:  Taryn Gibbs, physics and chemistry major

Taryn Gibbs“Taryn is a very independent undergraduate student, and she has been working on a medicinal chemistry project related to flavonoid compounds.  These are natural compounds in fruits and vegetables that have anti-cancer, anti-atherosclerosis and neuroprotective activities.  I believe she made a very nice contribution to EXPO with her presentation.” - Dr. William Whaley, faculty research mentor