August 08, 2018, BY Beth Kaszuba

Students talk in a crowded room.
More than 100 participants, including Bucknell students, presented research at this year's Susquehanna Valley Undergraduate Research Symposium, held on campus. Photo by Gordon R. Wenzel

Chloe Poltonavage '20 has spent the summer exploring Central Pennsylvania, hiking and talking to residents who are immersed in the region's history. Her goal is to expand a Bucknell-designed app that leads users on guided walking tours, boosting their fitness and knowledge of area landmarks.

It's a job Poltonavage, an early childhood education major, never expected to have — and one that led her to yet another unanticipated location: the eighth annual Susquehanna Valley Undergraduate Research Symposium, where she presented her findings next to students with majors and minors as diverse as biology, political science, dance and geography.

In fact, Poltonavage's work, which sought to add more routes and information to the Ready, Set, Fit app developed by a team of students and Professors Katie Faull, German studies and comparative humanities, and Stu Thompson, electrical & computer engineering, was classified under a category that was formerly foreign to Poltonavage.

"Never in a million years did I dream that my name would be listed in a program under an engineering department," she said, explaining that she took a digital humanities class and "fell in love with mapping." Discussing her summer project, she added, "There's always more to learn, and I've built relationships that will last forever."

Held Aug. 1, the symposium, which is jointly sponsored by the Bucknell Institute for Public Policy, Bloomsburg University, Susquehanna University and the Geisinger Health System, provided more than 100 participants with the opportunity to share their research at a professional conference and learn about their peers' work in other disciplines.

Opportunities Open to All Students
For Alison Malone '19, an English-literary studies major who plans to become a high school teacher, conducting undergraduate research was a surprising twist to her Bucknell experience.

As a campus tour guide, Malone used to joke with visitors about her preference for literature over the sciences, which she considered the primary disciplines for research-minded students. Now, she said, "I realize that you can do research in any field."

Explaining that her project focused on how narrative literary analysis, which takes into account reader experiences, can be effectively used in secondary-education classrooms, she added, "I'm so happy to be doing something I'm passionate about. It's a great opportunity."

Mateen Qureshi ’19 presents his research at the Susquehanna Valley Undergraduate Research Symposium. Photo by Gordon R. Wenzel

Computer engineering major Mateen Qureshi '19 also explored new concepts and ventured off campus, teaming up with research scientists at nearby Geisinger Medical Center to study potential automated methods to assess heart ventricles in cardiac magnetic resonance images.

Currently, radiologists assess the images manually, which Qureshi said can be time consuming and lead to errors. An automated process could be faster and more accurate, potentially saving lives.

"This project gave me a new perspective on how artificial intelligence can be used," Qureshi added, noting that he would like to continue exploring AI as a graduate student.

Bucknell Students Earn Recognition
The symposium also recognized outstanding research projects with awards, including work by the following Bucknell students:

Stefanie Salinger ’19 earned recognition for her research on safe, efficient air transport in urban areas. Photo by Gordon R. Wenzel
  • Stefanie Salinger '19, majoring in mechanical engineering  — Oral Presentation Award for "Conceptual Design of Electric Helicopters for Urban Air Mobility"   
  • Lilly Courts '20, majoring in biology — Oral Presentation Award for "Cracking the CHC Code: Olfactory Communication in the Eusocial Harpegnathos Saltator" 
  • Marcy Kittredge '20, majoring in neuroscience — Best Poster in Life Science for "Creeping on Ants: Constructing a Behavioral Monitoring Device for Harpegnathos Saltator"
  • Dalton Stewart '19, majoring in environmental engineering, and Abbie Winter '19, majoring in environmental science — Best Poster in Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences for "Exploring Sustainability Through Campus Landscapes"

"The symposium is a fun event to cap off a summer spent working on challenging, engaging projects," said Professor Vanessa Massaro, geography, who helped to organize the event. "It's a chance for students from several institutions to get together, share their findings and practice their presentation skills. And it's really impressive to see so many dedicated undergraduates doing such exciting work."