Seton Hall students participate in Big East Undergraduate Research Symposium


The Big East Tournament Finals wasn’t the only action last Saturday at Madison Square Garden. Prior to the game, eight Seton Hall students participated in the 2022 Big East Undergraduate Research Symposium. These students joined representatives from other Big East universities in a showcase of cutting-edge research across all academic disciplines.

The undergraduate research symposium was an initiative of the Big East Provosts. As academic directors of their respective universities, the provosts envisioned a format that would showcase academic excellence at the biggest sporting event of the season. The eight Seton Hall students represented five research groups:

  • Thomas Staes: Synthesis and characterization of biodiesel using microalgae as a sustainable source of triglycerides (mentor: Prof. Wyatt R. Murphy, Ph.D.; other authors: David Goncalves, Hailey Sule, Abigail Graham, Kiana Tate, Brenna Mitchell)
  • Venice Jan Castillon, Iain Morton: Improving the photovoltaic conversion efficiency of CdS/CdTe-based thin-film solar cells: W x Ampere computer simulations and pulsed laser deposition (mentor: Prof. Mehmet Alper Sahiner, Ph.D.; other author: Matthew Melfi )
  • Elena Soisson, Charles McGarry: The water crisis in Lebanon: Water Security in the Slums of Beirut (mentor: Prof. Nabeela Alam, Ph.D.; other author: Keegan France)
  • Matea Toleska, Sedra Alabed: COVID-19 Modulation of Amyloid Precursor Protein Leading to Alzheimer’s Disease (mentor: Prof. Sulie L. Chang, Ph.D.)
  • Lori Zerrusen: Galvanizing Democracy: Combating Social Isolation and Increasing Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities (Mentor: Dr. Dawn Apgar, Ph.D.)

Showcase Great EastAccording to Dr. Sulie L. Chang, “These five teams represent the winners of the 2021 Petersheim Academic Exhibition Travel Awards. Their presentation at the inaugural BIG EAST Undergraduate Research Poster Symposium reveals how our 26-year-old years [Petersheim] academic exposure exceeded SHU (Share, Honor, Unite) and enabled our students, through their research competition, to share and network within the BIG EAST undergraduate family.”

During the symposium, each of the Big East’s 54 student research groups was judged based on research posters posted on the garden floor. The judges, who circulated from poster to poster, were senior executives from universities in the Grand Est. One was Seton Hall’s own provost, Dr Katia Passerini. Dr Passerini praised the students: “The symposium was a huge success; all the students and the posters were spectacular – I was proud to be part of this inaugural event and to represent Seton Hall, and I was exceptionally proud of our students.”

Representing Seton Hall in planning the event and coordinating Seton Hall’s delegation were Dr. José L. Lopez, Professor of Physics, and Dr. Sulie L. Chang, Professor of Biological Sciences. Dr Lopez commented: “Our team at Seton Hall shared the amazing research conducted by our undergraduate students in Biology, Chemistry, Diplomacy, Physics and Social Work. They are the best of the best of our students and a clear example that embodies our mantra of what great minds can do!”


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