This article by Colleen Langham originally published in The Gannon Knight on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012.

Gannon University students competed for first place awards Thursday and Friday at the eighth Annual Research Symposium.

The Symposium, which took place at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center in Erie, was hosted by the Regional Science Consortium.

The consortium is a conference for undergraduate and graduate students that provides a venue to present all types of scientific research.

The mission for this conference is to promote education and research on the environment in Lake Erie and the upper Ohio River basin, Gregory Andraso, Ph.D., a professor in the biology department, said.

The Tom Ridge Environmental Center at Presque Isle

“Every year I look forward to the Symposium, and this year was no different,” Jeanette Schnars, Ph.D, executive director of the consortium said.

This year there was a total of 42 oral presentations and 30 poster presentations, of which 75 students presented research.

“It’s like an artist showing off what they’ve been working on for 5-7 months,” Steven Ropski, Ph.D., a professor in the biology department said. “You can present your work in a non-confrontational atmosphere.”

It was a little nerve-racking talking in front of judges, first-year presenter, Erika Schmidt, a junior mechanical engineering major, said.

Schmidt and five other Gannon students did an oral presentation on their design and construction of a sediment collection device that they put in Cascade Creek.

The research has undergone a two-year design that consisted of the review of environmental studies.

“We worked with a nonprofit organization that is also a scholarship program, Pennsylvania Sea Grant,” Schmidt said.

Barry Brinkman, Ph.D., and Karinna Vernaza, Ph.D., advised Schmidt’s group during its research.

Andraso was adviser to Sarah Glancy, a senior biology major, who had an oral presentation on non-native species of plankton and its reproductive system.

Glancy tied for first place in the research.

“Although we like to see our Gannon students shine, the purpose is not for competition,” Andraso said.

He added that Gannon is no stranger to success at the annual event.

“The conference is something that we typically do quite well with,” Andraso said.

The Regional Science Consortium is a good location to do your first talk because it’s not high pressure, Ropski said.

Schmidt added that it allows students to network, see other research projects and good practice for presentations when you’re a professional.

According to Andraso, most of the research topics done tend to be oriented with environmental and diverse topics.

“I believe we had a great variety of presentations that interested everyone,” Schnars said.

Not only were college students at the conference Thursday and Friday, but there were also high school students that got to attend and get tours.

In the spring, Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society, which is hosted at Penn State Behrend, gives a chance for seniors to do a project before they graduate.

Gannon will also send students to Beta Beta Beta, a district convention, to compete.

Andraso said that Gannon students benefit from this in several ways.

“At an undergraduate level we are training scientists and there’s no better way to train them than to do science,” Andraso said.

“Also in terms of getting into grad or medical school, research experience has become really important.”

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