Hands On

Hands On

More than 440 students presented research projects at the 2023 Innovative Research Symposium this past May, including School of Engineering graduate student Prince Addo MA’23

School of Engineering graduate student Prince Addo MA’23.

The 2023 Innovative Research Symposium featured the largest number of student projects ever.

This year’s Research Symposium once again demonstrated the incredible breadth of our students’ interests and capabilities.

— Jay Rozgonyi, Associate Vice Provost for Pedagogical Innovation and Effectiveness, and Director of the Center for Academic Excellence

A record-breaking 444 students from across all academic disciplines made live poster presentations in the RecPlex during this year’s Innovative Research Symposium on Thursday, April 20. The featured student research represented all five University schools and covered a breadth of topics — the mental health challenges facing multilingual learners, ways to improve food safety in Sub-Saharan Africa, the loss of indigenous languages, and even a reimagining of hands-on surgical training tools for medical students.

Many of the students who participated in the symposium collaborated with hospitals, museums, elementary schools, and other local organizations and governmental programs to gather their research data.

Joseph Nizzardo ’25 and Olivia Beadoin ’23 of the College of Arts & Sciences worked with Bridgeport’s Beardsley Zoo to conduct a behavioral analysis of hatchling aggression among brook trout. Native to the rivers of the eastern U.S., brook trout numbers have been dwindling since the late 19th century, as a result of human interference. Conservation efforts to restore the fish populations have met numerous challenges, with a notable one being that brook trout being raised for release often show aggression toward each other.

Nizzardo and Beadoin’s research at the Beardsley Zoo set out to determine why this occurs, and to improve brook trout hatchlings’ survival and health. Using software technology — playfully dubbed “fishial recognition” — to identify the hatchlings based on unique facial features and markings, they tracked behaviors around food distribution, size, coloration, and location within the tank to determine aggression triggers. From their findings, the student researchers will offer recommendations to zoo caretakers on ways to decrease aggressive behavior and improve aquaculture brook trout outcomes.

Biomedical Engineering Major Brianna Duswalt ’23

Biomedical Engineering Major Brianna Duswalt ’23.

In another symposium poster presentation, biomedical engineering students Brianna Duswalt ’23, Kristen Alexander ’23, and Natalie Crawford ’23 showcased a laparoscopic surgery training dome that simulates the human abdomen and allows surgical trainees to practice laparoscopic surgery, also known as minimally invasive or keyhole surgery.

“Laparoscopic techniques are used 94 percent of the time in bariatric and abdominal surgeries, thus, the techniques learned from our device can be applied to improve a variety of medical procedures,” said Alexander.

Their training simulator, based on a senior research project design from last year, was improved to provide users with quantitative feedback – in real-time – on the quality of their laparoscopic incision and suturing skills. The team’s enhanced prototype includes an LED light that turns red when a threshold for potential patient tissue damage is surpassed, thereby alerting the user that such force on actual human tissue could risk injury to the patient.

“Current domes on the market are highly expensive and still require feedback from an in-person medical professional,” Duswalt noted. “Our dome eliminates the need for oversight, making it easier for medical students and residents to use and practice on their own time.”

Nursing Major Katherine Tenemaza-Rojas ’23.

Nursing Major Katherine Tenemaza-Rojas ’23.

The annual symposium event was held over two sessions, with the second session devoted to research by students in the Marion Peckham Egan School of Nursing and Health Studies. Topics included the relationship between alcohol consumption and mental health, diet education for those undergoing chemotherapy, the prevention of nursing burnout in today’s healthcare climate, and other timely issues in the current news cycle.

Nursing student Katherine Tenemaza- Rojas ’23 presented a unique look into mental health challenges encountered by immigrant pediatric patients — children who, without early detection, are often at higher risk for developing long-lasting mental health and behavioral health issues. In her project, Tenemaza-Rojas discussed how comprehensive mental health screenings, cultural sensitivity, and complete health histories can help support high-quality care for immigrant patients and their families.

“Pediatric nurses should be more aware of the challenges faced by immigrant patients,” she said. “Nurses who better understand the social and legal implications of immigration allow for advocacy at the bedside.”

The Innovative Research Symposium is a signature Fairfield event that highlights the strong emphasis the University places on hands-on learning and collaboration with faculty.

“This year’s Research Symposium once again demonstrated the incredible breadth of our students’ interests and capabilities,” said Jay Rozgonyi, associate vice provost for pedagogical innovation & effectiveness, and director of the Center for Academic Excellence.

School of Education and Human Development Graduate Student Stephen Osika.

School of Education and Human Development Graduate Student Stephen Osika

He noted how the event is a perfect example of the power of Fairfield’s approach to teaching: “Our faculty members make personal connections with students, often going so far as to include them in their research work.”

“To a student,” he concluded, “this kind of opportunity is a game changer, both in the way it opens their eyes to new levels of learning, and in terms of the real-world experience it offers, which is highly prized by the employers who are looking to hire new college graduates.”

For more information about this year’s Innovative Research Symposium and the many student research projects presented, visit fairfield.edu/innovative-research-symposium.

Other Articles in the Summer 2023 Issue

Letter from the President

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Leaders in Education

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Pitch Perfect

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Engineers in Motion

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Soldier In Art

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Alumni Profile: Sister Carol Ann Nawracaj OSF, M’77

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Alumni Profile: Joe DeCamara ’00

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Donor Profile: StagMates: Robert ’08, MS’09 and Shelby (Mayor ’09, MS’10) Morton

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