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Westminster students present research at Pittcon 2024

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Posted on Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Five Westminster College biochemistry students traveled to San Diego, Calif., to present their undergraduate research at Pittcon 2024, a leading annual conference and expo on laboratory science.

In addition to participating in a national conference and honing their presentation skills, the students were able to network with other students and scientists from across the country.

Olivia Herman, a senior biochemistry major from Hamburg, N.Y., presented “Examination of SLBP Binding to Histone mRNA Degradation Intermediates,” co-authored with Dr. Patrick Lackey, associate professor of chemistry.

“I was able to get a better understanding of some of the graduate programs I’m interested in after graduation and how those will help me reach my goals of being a research scientist,” said Herman.

Emily Huff, senior biochemistry major from New Wilmington, presented “The Effect of Bisphenol F on Development and Gene Expression in Zebrafish,” co-authored with Lackey and Dr. Marosh Furimsky, associate professor and chair of the Department of Biology.

“I was able to connect with other students and scientists to discuss a multitude of topics, including my research and their ongoing research or laboratory experiences,” said Huff.

Emma Parker, an honors student and senior biochemistry major from Poolseville, Md., presented “Continuous Wave Electron Paramagnetic Resonance Structural Analysis of Alpha-Synuclein in Its Disordered and Membrane-Bound Forms,” co-authored with Dr. Jessica Sarver, associate professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry.

“Pittcon was the first time I participated in a large, international conference and being able to attend presentations and see posters with other scientists discussing the theories and motivations behind their research was an amazing opportunity to expand my own scientific reasoning,” said Parker.

Natalie Rose, an honors student and senior biochemistry major from Streetsboro, Ohio, presented “Examining the Binding of 3'hExo to Histone mRNA Stem-Loop Degradation Intermediates,” co-authored with Lackey.

“Being able to present my research to professionals in the field and have them be interested and ask questions about it was so rewarding,” said Rose.

Grace Ryser, a senior biochemistry and fine arts major from Hubbard, Ohio, presented “Spilling the Tea: How Leaf Variety and Fermentation Affect Antioxidant Content,” co-authored by Sarver.

“I had the pleasure getting to travel across the country alongside my fellow Westminster women in STEM to work and present at the conference together. I loved every minute of this opportunity,” said Ryser.

Herman, Huff, Parker and Rose received funding from Westminster’s Drinko Center for Undergraduate Research which financially supports undergraduate work through various grants for students participating in academic programs, conferences and creative projects at Westminster College.

Sarver and Dr. Helen Boylan, professor of chemistry, both served on the Pittcon organizing committee. This year, Boylan served as the Technical Program Chair and the Environmental and Energy Program Track Leader. Sarver served as the Networking Roundtable Chair and the Bioanalytical and Life Science Program Track Leader.

Westminster alumni Justin Shearer ’02 and Ian "Mitch" Taylor ’08 attended Pittcon and had the opportunity to network with Westminster students during an alumni gathering.

Pittcon is a laboratory science-based conference where people can exchange the latest advances in analytical research and scientific achievements. The goal is to advance scientific attempts through collaboration.  Proceeds from each conference directly fund education in science and outreach.  

This year’s event featured more than 1,000 technical sessions, 500 exhibitors and thousands of attendees. Originating in 1950, Pittcon is the Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy that has grown to additional locations.

Next year’s Pittcon will be held in Boston.

For more information on the Drinko Center for Undergraduate Research or the Pittcon conference, contact Dr. Patrick Lackey at

Pictured from left to right are Emma Parker, Natalie Rose, Emily Huff, Dr. Jessica Sarver, Grace Ryser and Olivia Herman.