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Senior honors students defend capstone research projects

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Posted on Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Several Westminster College honors students will publicly defend their capstone research projects this spring, marking the end of nearly two years of high-level academic exploration. 

Under the mentorship of three faculty members—two experts in the students’ major field of study and one faculty member from another department—honors students work closely with their lead honors board faculty adviser to conduct innovative, rigorous hands-on research. 

When the final semester of study approaches, each student submits a final thesis to the honors board and holds a public defense of their honors research, which includes a presentation followed by a question-and-answer session with faculty and attendees. 

“As I prepare to defend my honors thesis, I have reflected on my experience in the program and how prepared I feel for not only the conclusion of my research but for my post-graduate aspiration as well, undoubtedly due to the experiences I received as a result of being an honors scholar at Westminster College,” said Sophia Kaplan.

“While every student at Westminster experiences capstone, students in the All-College Honors Program begin working on their capstone research early in the junior year, developing and proposing a project to their honors board of three faculty,” said Dr. Kristianne Kalata, director of the All-College Honors Program and associate professor of English.

This year’s honors scholars and their honors defenses include:

Izayah Bojanac, biochemistry major from Harrisburg, Pa., will present “Investigation of Histone mRNA Degradation through Advanced Molecular Dynamics, Applications and Force Analysis Utilizing the Jarzynski Equality” at 5 p.m., Wednesday, April 12, in Hoyt 101. 

Ethan Cunningham, chemistry major from Cochranton, Pa., will present “The Recovery of Critical Elements from Magnets Using Osorb” at 5:30 p.m., Thursday, April 13, in Hoyt 152. 

Mia Greco, biology major from New Castle, Pa., will present “The Effect of Embryonic Exposure to Ibuprofen on Visual System Development” at 11:30 a.m., Friday, April 14, in Hoy 200. 

Sophia Kaplan, neuroscience major from Mentor, Ohio, will present “The Effects of Pre-exposure to Cannabinoids on the Susceptibility of Zebrafish to Scopolamine Associated Memory Deficits” at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, April 27. 

Madison Miller, nursing major from Pittsburgh, will present “Attitudes of Undergraduate Students at a Liberal Arts College Regarding the Covid-19 Vaccine.”

Katherine Mozelewski, neuroscience major from Pittsburgh, will present “Sex Differences in the Interactions of Nicotine and Food Deprivation on Anxiety-like Behavior” at 12:45 p.m., Monday, April 17, in Patterson 104. 

Lindsey Oliver, criminal justice studies major from Webster, N.Y., will present “An Intersectional Approach to Understanding How Individual Biases Are Related to Perceptions of Punitiveness” at 12:40 p.m., Thursday, April 13, in Hoyt 101. 

Haleigh Paolucci, biology major from Hallmadge, Ohio, will present “The Effect of Ascorbic Acid on Rate of Would Healing, Limb Regeneration and Expression of col1A1 and tgfB1 in Ambystoma” at 5 p.m., Thursday, April 27, in Hoty 101. 

Megan Strohmenger, biology major from Olmsted Falls, Ohio, will present “The Effect of Oxybenzone on Reproduction in Ramshorn Snails and Zooxanthellae Count in Aiptasia Pallida.” 

Kendra Trimbach, biology major from Ballston Lake N.Y., will present “Reduction of Staphylococcus Aureus Biofilm using siHybrids” at 1 p.m., Monday, May 8, in Patterson 51. 

Lauren Turturice, molecular biology major from Washington, Pa., will present “Centrin2 is Important for the Nuclear Export and Centrosomal Localization of BRAC1/BRAC2 in Hs578t Breast Cancer Cells” at 6 p.m., Wednesday, April 12. 

“Being a member of the honors program for the past four years has taught me so many skills that I have used outside of just honors classes,” said Oliver. “Not only do I feel that I have a better understanding of multiple areas of academia, but I’ve also grown in my leadership and communication skills while serving as the president of the program this past year and the work-study student for the program the past three years.”

For more information about Westminster College’s Honors Program, please visit or contact Dr. Kristianne Kalata at