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Seniors present research at Penn State Behrend’s Sigma Xi conference

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Posted on Monday, June 3, 2024

Two Westminster College seniors participated in the Penn State Behrend-Sigma Xi Undergraduate Research and Creative Accomplishment Conference on April 20 in Erie, Pa.

Sophia Galietta of Bethel Park, Pa., was awarded second place for an oral presentation at the conference, while Alaina Kutsch of Home, Pa., presented her independent research with a poster presentation.

Galietta’s project, “The Effect of Nature Therapy on Mood and Cognition Among Individuals Reporting ADHD-Like Symptoms,” focused on the effect of nature therapies in specific mental health scenarios. Galietta examined the influence of nature therapy on cognition and emotion among college students reporting varied levels of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three conditions, each of which involved a gentle walk. Participants completed surveys measuring the target variables both before and after the walk. Galietta worked on her project under the mentorship of Dr. Helen Boylan '95, professor of chemistry, and Dr. Jessica Rhodes, associate professor of psychology.

“It was very fulfilling to present the research I have been working on for over a year at the Penn State Behrend conference. Not only did I get to share research—that has never been done before—with a broader audience, but I gained experience presenting and defending my research,” said Galietta.

Galietta, an honors student, graduated summa cum laude in May with a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and fine arts.

Kutsch’s research, “An Examination of the Role of Sluggish Cognitive Tempo in the Relationship Between ADHD Symptoms and Emotional Impulsivity and Attentional Control,” focused on the impact of sluggish cognitive tempo (SCT) and the link between ADHD.  She examined relationships between ADHD, emotional impulsivity and attentional control and how SCT—which is characterized by symptoms of daydreaming, confusion, low physical activity and trouble beginning and sustaining tasks—plays a role in these relationships. Kutsch produced this as an independent study, collaborating with Rhodes during the process. Kutsch researched specific literature, independently programmed a neurocognitive assessment and collected data.

“The poster session lasted two and a half hours and was judged rigorously by members of all different fields, which was interesting to encounter and made questions difficult to answer at times,” said Kutsch. “Dr. Rhodes and I are also currently working on publishing a paper on this study in a research journal, which is another amazing opportunity that has come out of this study that I could have never imagined happening when I first thought of taking an independent study course.”

Kutsch graduated cum laude in May with a Bachelor of Science degree in neuroscience and a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology.

Funding for Galietta’s project was made possible by the Watto Faculty Research Award, which Boylan and Rhodes share. The award was created by George ’53 and Ruth Randall Watto ’51 to encourage continued faculty scholarship and research.

Kutsch’s research was funded by the Drinko Center for Undergraduate Research, which seeks to promote and provide students with a variety of research, scholarly and creative opportunities in all academic disciplines.

For more information on these projects, please contact Rhodes at

Sophia Galietta, top, and Alaina Kutsch, bottom.