Biology Students and Faculty Present Research at Top Conferences

Biology Students and Faculty Present Research at Top Conferences

Fairfield undergraduates (l-r) Jada Ormsbee '24 and Caroline Potter '23 at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology annual meeting in Austin, Texas this past January.

Bridging the gap between theory and practice, undergraduate research in the College of Arts and Sciences is a hallmark of the Fairfield student experience.

We remain deeply committed to mentoring students in our research, as these experiences are critically important for their post-graduate success in science

— Shelley Phelan, PhD, Professor of Biology and Director of the Science Institute

The College of Arts and Sciences empowers and encourages undergraduate students from all disciplines to conduct innovative, in-depth, and collaborative research under the guidance and encouragement of faculty experts and staff. This year, the biology department is leading the way with seven faculty members having conducted research with several student mentees that have or will present or publish their findings both nationally and internationally.

"Undergraduate research is a hallmark of the biology department,” said Shannon Gerry, PhD, department chair and professor of biology. “Students spend eight-to-ten hours a week working closely with a faculty member on a research project, typically for multiple semesters. These professional achievements are a testament to the high quality of work and serious dedication of our students."

Participating in faculty-led research projects can expose students to the forefront of scientific inquiry. Fairfield's students gained first hand experience by taking part in a number of projects with the latest research techniques, technologies, and methodologies employed in the field. Presenting research findings at national conferences also offers biology students a platform to showcase their work and gain recognition within the scientific community.

“We remain deeply committed to mentoring students in our research, as these experiences are critically important for their post-graduate success in science,” said Shelley Phelan, PhD, professor of biology and director of the Science Institute at Fairfield.

2022-23 Biology faculty/student research projects:

  • Anita Fernandez, PhD, associate professor of biology, has worked with biology seniors who will be presenting their research at the 24th Annual International C. elegans Conference in Glasgow Scotland this June. Titles are: Julia Stobierska ’23: “Characterization of gonad defects in the low-fertility dhc-1; mel-28 double mutant”; Anna Weissenberg ’23: “dhc-1; mel-28 double mutants have defects in oocyte yolk endocytosis”; and Sydney Youd ’23: “Dynactin mutants have defects in sperm competence that are rescued by mutations in Y-complex nucleoporin genes.”
  • Senior biology major Caroline Potter ’23 worked with Dr. Gerry for two years and recently presented their work at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology annual meeting in Texas this past January. The poster was entitled, “Relating variation in morphology and maneuverability in juvenile bluegills.” They are currently working on completing the manuscript with three other undergraduate student co-authors Vinny Gadioma ’22, Will Robinson ’23 and Lauren Olczak ’22. Gerry also published a paper in February with biology alumna Kamryn Jebb ’20, entitled “Impacts of thermal acclimatization on fish skeletal muscle”.
  • Two biology seniors, Maggie Rodgers ’22 and Kate Junkins ’22, have been working with Dr. Phelan for two years, recently presented their breast cancer research at the American Association for Cancer Research conference in Orlando in April. The group is at work on two projects – one, an NSF-funded collaborative project with Hunter College, and another an original project in the Phelan lab. Two other students Ellie Ricci ’22 and Eliza Hogan ’23 worked with Dr. Phelan on a collaborative research project with SOE. They presented their work at two conferences: the NASA CT Space Grant Consortium Conference in November, and the Materials Research Science Conference in San Francisco in April. Two recent biology alumni, Hannah Klausner ’22 and Oluwafemi Gbayisomore ’22, co-authored an article with Dr. Phelan this February entitled: “Punicic Acid Inhibits Proliferation and Induces Apoptosis in Human MCF-7 Breast Cancer Cells.”
  • Brian Walker, PhD, professor of biology, and junior Jada Ormbsee ’24 presented research at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology,“Getting Down and Dirty: Optimizing Microplastics Recovery in Penguin Fecal Samples,” in January 2023 at their annual meeting in Austin, Texas. Recent biology alumnus Gabe Rodrigues ’22 was a co-author. Ormbsee will also be presenting similar work at the 11th Annual International Penguin Conference in Viña del Mar, Chile, in September 2023.
  • Several students worked with Ashley Byun, PhD, associate professor of biology, to conduct research at the CT’s Beardsley Zoo, and presented their research in September of 2022 at the American Zoological Association (AZA) conference in Baltimore. Three students co-authored a publication in October 2022 in the Journal of Computer Science. Current students Emma King ’24 and Marlee Dubin ’25 have submitted their research for presentation at AZA in Sept 2023. Alumni Chris Navarro ’22 is co-author on a manuscript in revision, entitled “Felidae call type and species classification on acoustic features.” It is a collaborative paper between the  Biology Department, the Computer Science Department in the Fairfield School of Engineering, and the Georgia State Department of Computer Science.
  • Senior Olivia Beaudoin ’22 presented with Jen Klug, PhD, professor of biology, at the International Global Lake Ecological Observatory conference in February 2023. Beaudoin was the lead author and presenter. Her poster was titled “Hydrology drives interannual variability in hypoxia in Lake Lillinonah (Northeastern USA)."
  • Ryan Bongo ’22 conducted research with Phyllis Braun, PhD, professor of biology, that was published this year. The project is entitled “Inhibitory Relationships of Resident Bacteria Isolated from the Mantle Fluids of Crassostrea virginica.” It was published in the Canadian Journal of Microbiology.

Learn more about the undergraduate research experience at fairfield.edu/research.

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