Poster Session Awardees

2023 Awardees

In the fall, Undergraduate Research Fellows and Wheaton students who have conducted research at other institutions come together to showcase their research in our annual Poster Session.

This year's top research presentations and posters, as evaluated by the Poster Session judges, are:


1st Place: Katia Quintanilla

Advisor: Dr. Ray Lewis (Wheaton College)

Title: Effect of Salinity on Oogenesis and Early Sporophyte Growth in the Brown Alga Alaria marginata

Overview: Alaria marginata, also known as ribbon or winged kelp, are brown algae native to mid- and intertidal regions near the cliffed and rugged coastlines ranging from Alaska to California. While various abiotic factors affect growth and development of brown algae, salinity is critical to consider, in light of ocean acidification, glacier melting, and global and local salinity decreases in oceans. This study investigated salinity (20-48 PSU with 4 PSU intervals) as a sole independent variable on the egg production, fertilization, and resulting sporophyte growth of Alaria marginata isolated kelp gametophytes. Results of this study suggest that salinity has a significant impact on gametophyte growth, reproductive success, and sporophyte development. In this investigation, Alaria marginata species demonstrate optimal egg production, fertilization success, sporophyte count, and sporophyte length at PSU range from 28-40 PSU, most likely due to inhibition of photosystem II, increased algal respiration rates, free amino acids count, and lipid production (Ishika et al. 2018, Karsten 2007, Spurkland and Iken 2011). As a result of this study, we have the opportunity to anticipate Alaria marginata genetic tolerance to varying salinities in the ocean, predict shifts in ecosystem balance, and improve carbon sequestration models in shifting saline environments.


2nd Place: Elizabeth Meyer

Advisor: Dr. Lisa Burden (Wheaton College)

Title: Characterizing the Electrical Activity of the Protein Nanopore α-Hemolysin: Comparing Manufactured and In-House Produced Proteins

Objective: further characterize the activity of the fluorescent dye molecule Cyanine 5 as it translocated through α-Hemolysin nanopores situated in lipid bilayer membranes. To do so, I determined values such as α-Hemolysin insertion currents for different variations of the protein nanopore and the electrical activity of Cyanine 5 translocating through single α-Hemolysin nanopores for different variations of the protein nanopore.

Reflections on the project: I learned so many invaluable skills this summer in engaging in research in a collaborative, Christian environment.


3rd Place: Wesley McAuley

Advisor: Dr. Darren Craig (Wheaton College)

Title: Effect of gas injection location on initiation of magnetic arcades in WIRX

Objective: increase the repeatability of the Wheaton Impulsive Reconnection Experiment (WIRX) by exploring the effects of gas injection location on the initiation of magnetic arcades. In other words, we tried various types of fueling in WIRX in order to see which one had the most promise for yielding consistent results. This will help future researchers be able to design new experimental setups that will allow for deeper study of sheared magnetic arcades that are similar to those found in the solar corona.

Reflections on the project: This summer I have learned a lot, grown professionally, and developed a wider understanding of the world. It was an invaluable experience that will guide me as I consider my options after my undergraduate degree.


Honorable Mention: Kristin Joy Leong-Fern

Research Host: Finlay’s Extracts and Ingredients

Title: Purifying Organic Acids Found in Coffee Using Solid Phase Extraction


Honorable Mention: Lily Anne Van Ye

Advisor: Dr. Daniel Burden (Wheaton College)

Title: Electrically Silent Translocation through αHL Nanopores in Various Salt Solutions

Objective: This summer, I worked to characterize various cyanine-5 fluorescent dye molecules both electrically (through alpha-hemolysin nanopores) and optically on glass surfaces. The purpose of this research was to explore the biophysics of nanopores and propose directions for future research in the Burden Lab.

Comments on the project: I had a wonderful experience learning how to conduct empirical research under the mentorship of the Burden Lab. The summer was filled with joyful community and exciting successes in our experiments. I am looking forward to continuing my work with the Burden Lab.


Honorable Mention: Reilly Thompson

Research Host: Dr. Britahny Baskin, Laboratory of Addiction Genetics, Boston University

Title: Use of Behavioral Battery to Distinguish Differences in Pro-addiction Model Traits and Cocaine Sensitivity in Spontaneously Hypertensive Rat Substrains and Reciprocal F2 Offspring

Summary: I interned at a Boston University neuroscience lab for seven weeks, focusing on studying the genetic inheritability of psychostimulant abuse using rodents. We conducted experiments with various rat substrains to explore behavioral differences in cocaine use, aiming to uncover insights into genetic predispositions to addiction with potential applications to human populations. This experience taught me so much about what it means to conduct research full time and gave me confidence in my abilities to conduct my own research in the future. I am incredibly thankful for my mentor Dr. Brit Baskin and her guidance in my career interests in psychology and studying complex issues such as addiction.