Pitt-Greensburg Undergraduate Research and Creativity Spotlight

Pitt-Greensburg is proud to celebrate the forward-thinking research and creative efforts of our students.

Hover over the student images below to learn more about them and their projects. The links accompanying some students' names lead to further information about their project - either a personal project website or an explanatory video provided by the student.

 

Faryaal Alam photo

Faryaal AlamFaryaal Alam ('20), Biological Sciences

Project Title: Assessing the Recovery of Acid Mine Drainage Using Benthic Macroinvertebrates

Project Goal: Have you seen a lake or pond that was orange in color? The body of water may be affected by acid mine drainage (AMD), which is caused by runoff from nearby coal mines. During Fall 2019, my research focused on gathering macroinvertebrates from Lowber Site in Sewickley Creek Watershed. Macroinvertebrates are small aquatic animals that are ideal to study the impact of AMD. Our data was compared to data collected in 2005 and we saw that the stream had recovered from AMD due to changes in macroinvertebrate data. This research contributes to our understanding of treatments for acid mine drainage.

Adam Andrekanic photo

Adam AndrekanicAdam Andrekanic ('20), Chemistry

Project Title: Determining Concentration of the Trace Metals Iron, Copper, Zinc, Manganese, and Aluminum in Beer Using Flame Atomic Absorption Spectrometry (FAAS)

Project Goal: Have you ever wondered about the metal concentration in beer and the possible health risks? The goal of this study is to determine the amount of metal concentration in canned beer. A variety of canned beers (lager, light, etc….), were analyzed to determine the presence of Fe, Cu, Zn, Mn and Al, by using wet ash digestion prior to Flame Atomic Absorption Spectrometry. I was able to determine that all beers were at or below the recommended daily allowance. This project allowed me to enhance my knowledge and awareness of the amount of metals in canned beverage products.

Courtney Cambal photo

Courtney Cambal photoCourtney Cambal ('20), Education

Project Title: The Portrayal of Femininity and "The New Woman" in Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes

Project Goal: During my time in British Literature, we spent some time discussing the early women's rights movement. I chose to do my research for "The Solitary Cyclist" based on the question: How aware or connected was Arthur Conan Doyle to the women's rights movement? This question opened up common themes of Doyle's stories that are not typically thought of or discussed, such as Doyle's opinion of "The New Woman" and the male protector.

Fiona Carter photo

Fiona Carter photoFiona Carter ('20), Information Technology/Math

Project Title: "How to Build a Barricade": Analyzing Contemporary Irish Women's Literature with GIS

Project Goal: To write about Ireland is to write about land. To write about land is to write about space, and to analyze space in literature is to analyze how that space is used or what it represents. With this project, Dr. Kelli Maloy and I examined two contemporary Irish women writers, Anne Devlin and Lucy Caldwell, to see how Irish spaces were represented in their works, in the context of women's mobility or lack thereof through politicized spaces. By visualizing the works with animated maps, we discovered that women enjoyed greater mobility than we had anticipated.

 

Faryaal Alam
Biological Sciences
Adam Andrekanic
Chemistry
Courtney Cambal
Education
Fiona Carter
Information Technology/Math

 

Leta Cirigliano photo

Leta Cirigliano photoLeta Cirigliano ('21), Early Childhood Education

Project Title: Emergent Literacy Resource Website

Project Goal: Have you ever wondered about the way in which children learn to read and write? How does literacy develop? I have been working on creating a website that addresses these questions! My website is full of resources that support and promote literacy skills among children. I am hoping my website is able to have an impact on the way children acquire literacy skills. I believe my website provides teachers, parents, and the public with an in-depth understanding of how children learn and develop, and how it is possible to maximize their learning potential in both fun and creative ways!

Kiara Devore photo

Kiara Devore photoKiara DeVore ('21), History

Project Title: Helen Clay Frick Project

Project Goal: The Helen Clay Frick Project is a culmination of a year’s worth of work with the end goal of how the West Overton Museum in Scottsdale, PA was established and remains uncompleted. The purpose of this project is to identify and express the motivations of Miss Frick in the creation of the museum. In addition, in-depth research on the renovations of the Homestead house and inventory of historical objects that were purchased in an attempt to create not only a memorial to her father, coke and steel mogul Henry Clay Frick, but also the history of Western Pennsylvania.

Amanda Filicky photo

Amanda Filicky photoAmanda Filicky ('20), Biochemistry

Project Title: Preparation of N-substituted-3-amino-5-phenyl-cyclohex-2-en-1-ones from 5-phenyl-1,3-cyclohexanedione Using Various Primary Amines in Aqueous Acetic Acid and Their Effect on C. Elegans Induced with Seizures

Project Goal: What are cost efficient, easy to produce, and readily obtainable reagents? Enaminones! My research involves the preparation of various enaminones from a 1,3-diketone using various primary amines in aqueous acetic acid. The production of four different enaminones was accomplished using various primary amines in the presence of vinegar. The maximizing of yields occurred through the adjustment of reaction conditions such as increasing temperature. I then examined the effectiveness of the reaction. The production of new enaminones is important as they have potential seizure reducing activity and could be used as a potential drug in the treatment of seizures in humans.

Jeremy Hafner photo

Jeremy Hafner photoJeremy Hafner ('20), Chemistry

Project Title: Determination of Metal Ion Concentrations in Popular Beer Types via Microwave Irradiation and Flame Atomic Absorption Spectrometry (FAAS)

Project Goal: Did you know beer is the third most popular beverage worldwide? With its popularity, along with the rise of independent breweries and lack of current research, it’s increasingly important to know what you’re drinking. If high concentrations of heavy metals like iron, copper, zinc, and manganese are reached they can pose a serious health risk to the consumer. My research aimed to check the levels of these heavy metals in locally sourced lager, light, stout, and India Pale Ale. After utilizing a simple microwave technique, my analysis showed the metals in each beer were within safe concentrations for daily consumption.

 

Leta Cirigliano
Early Childhood Education
Kiara DeVore
History
Amanda Filicky
Biochemistry
Jeremy Hafner
Chemistry

 

Joseph Harriger photo

Joseph Harriger photoJoseph Harriger ('21), Biological Sciences

Project Title: A Contingent Model Discovering in vitro Effects of Magnesium Availability During Pathogen Metabolism and Growth

Project Goal: The research in conjunction with colleagues was to analyze the effects of pathogen sequestration via immune cells, where the pathogen was deprived of the magnesium (Mg). Work in the mouse model suggests that the immune system deprives pathogens of Magnesium (Mg) an essential element, consequently inhibiting bacterial growth. We analyzed the effects of the growth of three pathogenic bacteria when they were deprived of the magnesium (Mg). In the presence of Mg, all of the bacteria experienced exponential growth and infection. We then used specifically engineered agars (growth media) deprived of Mg - allowing for the role of Mg to be determined. As hypothesized, bacterial growth was inhibited in the absence of Mg, which paves the way for a potential pathway of therapeutic significance.

Nickolaus Hartos photo

Nickolaus Hartos photoNickolaus Hartos ('20), Biochemistry

Project Title: Preparation of N-substituted-3-amino-5,5-dimethyl-cyclohex-2-en-1-ones from 5,5-Dimethyl-1,3-cyclohexanedione Using Various Primary Amines in Aqueous Acetic Acid and the Pending Testing of their Efficacy with Convulsions Induced in Caenorhabditis Elegans

Project Goal: Have you ever heard of green chemistry and its role in solving the neurologically based issues? Green chemistry is the pursuit of developing environmentally safe reactions in pharmaceuticals. My goal is to research a simplified method to produce an effective drug compound to treat neuropathology. The utilized organic components of amines and diones were combined to form a specialized product which reduces neurological dysfunction. In the future, I strive to test these molecules on C. elegans as convulsions can be induced in the model organism which mimic the manifestation of seizures in human patients.

Jennifer Miller photo

Jennifer Miller photoJennifer Miller ('20), Biochemistry

Project Title: Preparation of N-substituted-3-amino-2-methyl-cyclohex-2-en-1-ones from 1,3-cyclohexanedione Using Various Primary Amines in Aqueous Acetic Acid

Project Goal: Have you ever heard of acetic acid? Its common name is vinegar. In this research I use this common household product as a solvent for a reaction to produce enaminones. Enaminones can aid in helping seizures. The goal of my project was to create enaminones that could be tested for seizure treatment. To create them, I used various primary amines and 1,3-cyclohexanedione to form N-substituted-3-amino-2-methyl-cyclohex-2-en-1-ones. I was able to optimize the procedure, and prepared enaminones in 24-48 hours which can then be stored at room temperature. In future research, these chemicals can be tested for their effectiveness as anti-seizure compounds.

George Panagis photo

George Panagis photoGeorge Panagis ('20), Biological Sciences

Project Title: Long-gap peripheral nerve repair through sustained release of a neurotrophic factor in nonhuman primates

Project Goal: Peripheral nerves, which enable movement and sensation, are commonly injured (PNI) in traumatic accidents. Following PNIs, surgeons attempt to sew nerves back together; however, this cannot be performed if the separation exceeds 2-3 centimeters. Standard treatment for longer PNIs is an autograft. Here, a patient’s own sensory nerve is removed and implanted at the injury. Unfortunately, autografts are prone to tumors, sensation loss, and infection. To address these problems, we developed a synthetic, biodegradable nerve conduit that steadily releases a neurotrophic factor to promote nerve regeneration. In one year, we were able to regenerate 5-centimeter PNIs in rhesus macaque forearms.

 

Joseph Harriger
Biological Sciences
Nickolaus Hartos
Biochemistry
Jennifer Miller
Biochemistry
George Panagis
Biological Sciences

 

Veronica Squadrito photo

Veronica Squadrito photoVeronica Squadrito ('20), Biological Sciences

Project Title: Marijuana Use as a Treatment for Parkinson’s Disease in C. elegans

Project Goal: Did you know marijuana could help people with Parkinson’s? Parkinson’s causes symptoms that affect muscles and movement. Small studies of Parkinson’s patients treated with marijuana have shown to relieve symptoms of the disease. Using microscopic worms modified to express Parkinson’s, we found marijuana significantly improved muscle function and response to stimuli showing the treatment relieved symptoms. The worms with Parkinson’s acted like the worms without after treatment with drugs. This demonstrates the possibility of marijuana as a treatment for Parkinson’s. Completing this study showed me what a professional research project is like and strengthened my ambition to pursue this career.

Hannah Stanley photo

Hannah Stanley photoHannah Stanley ('22), Early Childhood Education

Project Title: Point of View Unit - Medusa

Project Goal: Have you ever thought about why it's important to teach students about Point of View? Well, not only does POV help students effectively analyze literature, help them understand the author's purpose and improve their critical thinking in the classroom, it also helps students to understand the world from someone else's perspective. Teaching POV accurately and efficiently teaches students to understand how people may see situations differently in life and it helps them to be able to communicate and show understanding of other people's feelings and situations. Students understanding point of view is incredibly important in the classroom and in life.

Haley Stonebraker photo

Haley Stonebraker photoHaley Stonebraker ('20), Secondary Education/History

Project Title: Naughty Suffs: A Historical Analysis of the interpersonal relationships of imprisoned American suffragettes and their survival

Project Goal: 31 suffragettes were physically, emotionally, and psychologically tortured in a Virginia workhouse after being arrested for picketing outside the White House in 1917. My research focus is on the relationships the suffragettes formed while imprisoned. By looking at first-hand accounts, the suffragettes managed to endure trauma because they had each other. Leadership and companionship amongst the imprisoned suffragettes is what allowed for the women to continue protesting through a hunger strike, but more so to survive. Previous research had not looked at the interpersonal relationships nor cataloged the names of the suffragette prisoners. My research has attempted to do both.

 

 

 

 

Veronica Squadrito
Biological Sciences
Hannah Stanley
Early Childhood Education
Haley Stonebraker
Secondary Education/History

 

Group Projects

Kendall Beckett photo

Kendall Becket photoKendall Beckett ('20), Biological Sciences

Project Title: Studying Parkinson’s Disease in C. elegans with Ketone Exposure

Project Goal: Have you ever heard of ketones? Is anyone you know affected by Parkinson’s disease? Our research covers both. We grew microscopic worms called C. elegans with Parkinson’s disease in a media that we dosed with ketones and studied how it affected their symptoms. We found that the dosing of ketones decreased the detrimental symptoms caused by the Parkinson’s disease. Our research is important because Parkinson’s affects 10 million people worldwide. If something as simple as ketones could reduce the symptoms of a Parkinson’s patient, it would be a huge development for the Parkinson’s community.

Tori Conroy photo

Tori Conroy photoTori Conroy ('20), Biological Sciences

Project Title: Using Caenorhabditis elegans to Uncover the Relationship Between Ketones and Parkinson’s Disease

Project Goal: The goal of this study was to determine if ketones have the ability to alleviate some of the effects of Parkinson’s disease. The test subjects were Caenorhabditis elegans, or microscopic worms, of which were either healthy or affected by Parkinson’s. This study determined that ketones do have an effect by improving motor control and function in worms. This research can be used for future work on humans to possibly help those impacted by this disease. The research process has given me a new profound respect and love of biological research and has pushed me towards wanting to pursue it in future endeavors.

Dom Rotunda photo

Dom Rotunda photoDom Rotunda ('20), Biological Sciences

Project Title: Using Caenorhabditis elegans to Discover the Relationship Between Ketones and Parkinson’s

Project Goal: 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s (PD) annually. We conducted two experiments to test the abnormal muscle responses within Parkinson’s worms. Our goal was to see if after exposure to ketones, the Parkinson’s animals would improve to the wildtype level of functioning. The first experiment was thrashing (movement in liquid). In the second one, we recorded animals’ responses to being touched with a wire. After exposure to ketones, the Parkinson’s worms in both experiments closely resembled the responses of the wildtype. We believe ketones could play a role in treating the muscle symptoms of PD, but further research needs completed.

 

 

 

 

Kendall Beckett
Biological Sciences
Tori Conroy
Biological Sciences
Dom Rotunda
Biological Sciences

 

Myranda Michaels photo

Myranda Michaels photoMyranda Michaels ('20), Biological Sciences

Project Title: Caenorhabditis elegans with Parkinson’s Disease (WLZIS1) Treated with Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD)

Project Goal: More than 10 million people worldwide live with Parkinson’s. We're currently researching the treatment of Parkinson’s disease with CBD and THC in a model organism. Our studies focused on the drug effects related to muscle movement and function. We did this by testing muscle function and movement. The completed research shows significant improvement in motor function; minimizing the severity of Parkinson’s symptoms in worms. Our research is just the start of investigating if THC and CBD can be effective treatments for Parkinson’s Disease. These results have solidified my passion to become a health care professional.

Katelyn Runyan photo

Katelyn Runyan photoKatelyn Runyan ('21), Biochemistry

Project Title: Can chemicals in marijuana help treat disease?

Project Goal: In the Spring of 2020, I started biology undergraduate research at Pitt-Greensburg. We performed experiments on “sick” microscopic worms using chemicals CBD and THC, the major chemicals in marijuana. We used Parkinson’s disease worms that have decreased muscle function and movement. We proposed that treating these worms with the drugs can help their muscle function and movement. Our results show that the drugs impacted the worms positively and showed that they had an increase in motor function. We hope our research will help shed light on the use of CBD and THC as treatment options for human diseases in the future!

 

 

 

 

Myranda Michaels
Biological Sciences
Katelyn Runyan
Biochemistry

 

Kayla Morril photo

Kayla Morril photoKayla Morril ('20), Biological Sciences

Project Title: The Use of Curcumin in Treating Parkinson’s Disease Using C. elegans

Project Goal: Did you know that current medications given to treat Parkinson’s Disease only treat the symptoms? The underlying cause of Parkinson’s Disease is unknown, leaving patients with no cure. We investigated a natural chemical with antioxidant properties, called curcumin, as a treatment for Parkinson’s Disease in a worm model, known as C. elegans. Since Parkinson’s Disease is a muscular disease, we investigated the muscles of the worm with curcumin treatment. We found that curcumin improved muscular function and development of the worms. With further research, curcumin could be a possible treatment for Parkinson’s Disease. Research has taught me teamwork and patience.

Levi Trapanotto photo

Levi Trapanotto photoLevi Trapanotto ('20), Biological Sciences

Project Title: Effect of natural compound Curcumin on Parkinson’s Disease using C. elegans

Project Goal: The overall goal of this study was to determine if the natural compound, curcumin, can be used as a treatment for Parkinson’s disease. The drugs used to treat the disease now have major side effects and only treat the symptoms of the disease. C. elegans, which is a transparent worm, was used to examine the effects of curcumin. The findings of this study suggest that curcumin can be used to treat Parkinson’s disease, without having major side effects. In the short time doing this Capstone project, I have sharpened my research and analytical skills for the future.

 

 

 

 

Kayla Morril
Biological Sciences
Levi Trapanotto
Biological Sciences

 

Cheyeanne Perez photo

Cheyeanne Perez photoCheyeanne Perez ('20), Biological Sciences

Project Title: Effects of Naloxone and Opioid Interactions within the C. elegans Addiction Model

Project Goal: More than a thousand people are treated with naloxone (Narcan) to combat overdose every day. With this many people receiving naloxone as treatment, it is essential to know if this drug could be hurting them in other ways we have yet to study. We found that naloxone does not impact longevity, egg-laying, or cause developmental delays in C. elegans. After Capstone, I learned that naloxone does seem to be safe, but still needs to be studied further. I enjoyed doing this research because I realized that something so small could make a real impact on our lives.

Corrine Silvio photo

Corrine Silvio photoCorrine Silvio ('20), Biochemistry

Project Title: Effects of Naloxone and Opioid Interactions within the C. elegans Addiction Model

Project Goal: Naloxone (Narcan) saves the lives of people who experience opioid overdoses, but what if there were negative side effects to Narcan that we never considered? Our project used a small worm, C. elegans, to observe effects of drugs on lifespan, development, and egg-laying. Overdose and treatment conditions were simulated using fentanyl, Narcan, and a combination of fentanyl and Narcan. There was a significant developmental delay with worms exposed to fentanyl, but drug exposure had no great impact on lifespan or egg-laying. This suggests Narcan may be a safe treatment, but the limited studies could benefit from further research and evidence.

 

 

 

 

Cheyeanne Perez
Biological Sciences
Corrine Silvio
Biochemistry