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Select students chosen for in-person URAC presentations

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Posted on Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Eight Westminster College students have been selected to offer in-person podium presentations during this year’s Undergraduate Research and Arts Celebration (URAC) on Wednesday, April 21.

While this year’s URAC event—which showcases the collaborative work between Westminster faculty and students— will be conducted in a hybrid format of live and virtual sessions, a select group of students will offer a 20-minute presentations on their academic research. Each student chosen underwent a competitive selection process based on the quality of submitted abstracts.

“With the limitations on in-person events, I am excited that URAC 2021 will be able to highlight the outstanding work of this select group of undergraduates, who truly represent the broad range of disciplines undertaking research at the college,” said Dr. Karen Resendes, director of the Drinko Center for Undergraduate Research and coordinator of the event.

Offering in-person podium presentations this year are:

Zoe Cable will present “Maternal Morbidity and Mortality in Relation to the Economic and Social Status of Women in Central America.” Cable is a senior neuroscience and Spanish major from Brookville, Pa. Faculty sponsor: Dr. Jeffrey Bersett, professor of Spanish.

Elaina Chapnell will present “Using Machine Learning to Identify Diabetic Retinopathy.” Chapnell is a senior mathematics major and honors student from New Castle, Pa. Faculty sponsor: Dr. Natacha Fontes-Merz, associate professor of mathematics.

Timothy Hering will present “Jammin' with Langston Hughes: A Symphony of Truth in Black America.” Hering, an honors student, is a senior English and music major from New Galilee, Pa. Faculty sponsors: Dr. Deborah Mitchell, professor of English, and Dr. Timothy Winfield, associate professor of music.

Nyna Hess will present “Miracle Writers: Evolution, Influence and Purpose of Magical Realism.” Hess is a senior English major and honors student from Columbus, Ohio. Faculty sponsor: Dr. Trisha Cowen, assistant professor of English.

Cass Nielsen will present “The Effects of Methylphenidate and Nicotine on Spatial Working Memory in Rodents.” Nielsen is a senior neuroscience major from Warren, Pa. Faculty sponsor: Dr. Deanne Buffalari, associate professor of neuroscience.

Ashley Russell will present “How Can Teachers Individualize Intensive Reading Interventions to Ensure Successful Outcomes?” Russell is a senior education major from Belle Vernon, Pa. Faculty sponsor: Dr. Sararose Lynch, associate professor of education.

Tyler Snodgrass will present “The Effects of Social Antecedents of Bulls--- on Bulls---Detection.” Snodgrass is a senior neuroscience major from Butler, Pa. Faculty sponsor: Dr. Sandra Webster, professor of psychology.

Brandon Williams will present “Distinguishing Differing Conformations of Alpha-Synuclein through Distance Measurements.” Williams is a senior biochemistry major and honors student from Sandy Lake, Pa. Faculty sponsor: Dr. Jessica Sarver, assistant professor of chemistry.

More than 300 students, ranging from first years to seniors from nearly every academic discipline, will participate in the day’s URAC events, which include presentations in the form of oral presentations, research roundtables, poster sessions, videos, performances and art displays.

For a schedule of the day’s events, visit

URAC podium presenters pictured above clockwise from top left: Zoe Cable, Cass Nielsen, Brandon Williams, Nyna Hess, Elaina Chapnell, Tyler Snodgrass, Ashley Russell, Timothy Hering.