Undergraduate Research

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Undergraduate Research

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. Each year, more than 300 faculty-student research projects are conducted in the areas of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), the humanities, arts, and social sciences, more than half of which are presented at national scholarly meetings and/or published in professional journals and manuscripts.

The research conducted within the College of Arts and Sciences provides undergraduate students the opportunity for faculty mentorship, active learning, and the ability to discover new knowledge while being challenged in new ways. With research being conducted across multiple disciplines, students have the ability to engage in or develop original research projects that allow them to explore their passions while developing important industry connections and making invaluable contributions to their field of study.

Current & Past Research Projects

RIZE (Research, Internships, and Zoo Education) Service Learning Partnership with Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo

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RIZE (Research, Internships, and Zoo Education) Service Learning Partnership with Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo

As part of Fairfield University’s RIZE (Research, Internships, and Zoo Education) service learning program in partnership with Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo, Biology Professor Ashley Byun, PhD, and vertebrae zoology students Meghan Kirkpatrick ’17, Sean Thomas ’17, and Izabela Horzempa ’19, have been tracking the underground activities of the zoo’s black-tailed prairie dog population to learn as much as they can about the dynamic rodents’ complex maze of underground burrows.

Demonstrating innovative thinking and cutting-edge technology, Dr. Byun and her students used ground-penetrating radar, a non-invasive geophysical method that uses the reflection of electromagnetic energy to produce subsurface images, to map-out the animals’ underground habitat. After analyzing the data, they found that the once cohesive colony of prairie dogs had actually separated into two different coteries - an important discovery that not only explained recent episodes of aggression exhibited by the animals, but helped zoo officials modify their animal husbandry to enhance the prairie dogs’ welfare and behavior.

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Quantitative Microscopy for Cancer Cell Growth and Aggressiveness

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Quantitative Microscopy for Cancer Cell Growth and Aggressiveness

With the support of a $238,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, Fairfield University Physics Professor Min Xu, PhD, and Biology Department Chair Shelley Phelan, PhD, are leading undergraduate research students in an interdisciplinary, three-year study on the growth and aggressiveness of cancer cells.

The innovative study uses microscopic imaging to determine whether or not it is possible to identify specific cell properties (e.g. nuclear structure or cellular metabolism) that control the rate of a cancer cell’s growth. If these factors can be identified, scientists will be able to predict cancer aggressiveness directly from cell imaging, which would provide breakthrough advances in cancer screening, diagnosis, and treatment.

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Plaster Cast Relief Collection: Independent Research Project

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Plaster Cast Relief Collection: Independent Research Project

As part of an independent research project, art history and chemistry double major Jacqueline Ferreri ’18 is conducting an interdisciplinary research project alongside Associate Chemistry Professor Amanda Harper-Leatherman, PhD, and Visual and Performing Arts Professor Katherine Schwab, PhD, that could help save deteriorating works of art in the Fairfield University Art Museum’s plaster cast collection.

Combining her artistic and scientific passions, Ferrari began analyzing samples of plaster from the museum’s collection to determine the chemical make-up of three different statues – one in good, poor, and pristine condition. Using a combination of methods including Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), Fourier Transform Infrared (FT-IR) Spectroscopy, and a moisture determination test, Ferrari’s research revealed that the cast in poor condition was comprised of a different plaster compound than the others, which could be the cause of its fragile state. Ferreri and Dr. Harper-Leatherman are continuing analysis of the plaster samples to better understand the fragile nature of the casts and determine how the University can better preserve them moving forward.

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Egg Effects on the Immunomodulatory Properties of HDL

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Egg Effects on the Immunomodulatory Properties of HDL

Fairfield University Assistant Biology Professor Catherine J. Anderson, PhD, and Assistant Chemistry and Biochemistry Professor Aaron Van Dyke, PhD, have been awarded a $149,000 research grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to support a ground-breaking, faculty-student research study in the area of nutritional science.

The two-year project will involve six undergraduate research students each semester, and aims to investigate the effects of dietary intake on markers of cholesterol, metabolism, inflammation, and immune function. Using healthy adults, the study will determine if whole eggs, egg whites, or an egg free diet can alter the beneficial properties of HDL - carriers of the good cholesterol - in the bloodstream. Fairfield’s researchers hope to determine if the bioactive components in the egg yolks will alter the composition and function of HDL, leading to beneficial changes in immune cell activity and inflammation. Their findings could have important implications for the role of nutrition in health and human disease.

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Media Literacy in the Era of Alternative Fact

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Media Literacy in the Era of Alternative Fact

With fake news, media biases, and terms like “alternate facts” being discussed as significant threats to objective truth in journalistic reporting, news consumers require an increasingly sophisticated set of media literacy skills to help them sift through a complex media environment and uncover facts.

Beginning with the current generation of students at Fairfield University, digital journalism alumna Nicole Funaro ‘17 conducted an original research project to equip students with the necessary tools to be both intelligent media consumers and well-informed citizens of the world. By researching, interviewing, and writing a series of articles on fake news, data journalism, and media biases on the Department of Communication’s blog, Funaro established a lasting source of valuable information to guide students through today’s complex and severed media environment.

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How Empathy for Other’s Emotions Impacts Social Relationships

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How Empathy for Other’s Emotions Impacts Social Relationships

Taking an integrative approach to understanding human social relations, Fairfield University Psychology Professor Michael Andreychik, PhD, and his undergraduate students are conducting research that examines how two distinct “types” of empathy—empathy for others’ negative emotions and empathy for others’ positive emotions—relate to various aspects of human behavior, including helping behavior, close relationships, and motivation.

As part of the project, 175 men and women were invited to answer questions about their romantic relationships. The volunteers reported how strongly they felt their partner connected to both their negative emotions (e.g., sadness, anxiety) and their positive emotions (e.g., joy, excitement). They also rated how satisfied they were with their relationships. The results of the study showed that people’s perceptions of how strongly their partner connected with their negative emotions were an important predictor of how satisfied they were in their relationships. Importantly, however, perceptions of how strongly their partner connected with their positive emotions were associated nearly five times as strongly with relationship satisfaction. These results lead the Fairfield researchers to believe that while it is beneficial to be there for your partner when they are sad, anxious, or angry, it is perhaps even more important to share in their positive emotions.

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Research & Creative Accomplishments Symposium

Every April, groundbreaking student research, innovative thinking, and fresh ideas are celebrated at Fairfield University’s Annual Research and Creative Accomplishments Symposium. Featuring the scholarly work of nearly 500 undergraduate and graduate students from almost every discipline on campus, the annual event showcases an impressive range of student research projects from scientific discoveries to inventive art exhibitions. Students present research posters, interactive performances, and other creative works that celebrate the vibrant spirit and intellectual vitality of Fairfield University’s student body.

Digital Humanities Hub

Fairfield University’s Humanities Hub showcases digital scholarship completed by University faculty and students across the humanities. The goal of the hub is to contribute to the enduring vitality of the humanities and encourage other faculty members and students to participate in digital scholarship. All of the innovative research featured on the website employs digital tools to analyze complex information and represent it in novel ways.

Converging & Emerging Media Conference

Presented by the School of Communication, Arts, and Media in the College of Arts and Sciences, Converging and Emerging Media is an undergraduate conference at Fairfield University that explores and celebrates groundbreaking student research in the fields of communication, arts, and media.

The inaugural event was held in the Barone Campus Center Dogwood Room on September 22, 2018, and featured a series of timely and topical interdisciplinary research presentations conducted by undergraduate students attending colleges in Connecticut and Westchester County, New York. The conference tackled a series of fascinating media topics from “Global Digital Activism” and the evolution of “The Digital Essay” to the “Arts and Technological Change” and “Truth, Fake News, and the Invisible Algorithm, and featured Lawrence K. Jackson, co-host of NBC News’ twice-daily Snapchat show “Stay Tuned,” as the keynote speaker. A full review of the conference is available on The Fairfield Mirror website.

 

Watch the 2018 Converging & Emerging Conference

 

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