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UNE students present undergraduate research to members of U.S. Congress

May 03, 2013

Four University of New England undergraduate students have been recognized for their entries in the Council on Undergraduate Research's (CUR) annual poster conference "Posters on the Hill," an event at which 60 carefully selected undergraduate students from across the nation, representing an array of disciplines, showcased their research on Capitol Hill to members of Congress.

Two of the UNE students, Olivia Hebert, a senior medical biology major, and Andrea Taatjes, a senior psychology major and sociology minor, traveled to Washington, D.C., to present their research on April 24th.  

Two other students, Caitlin Tetreau, a double major in history and secondary education, and Sean Naughton, a double major in biochemistry and medical biology, were named as Honorable Mentions, ranking in the top 10 percent of the 800 applicants.

Charles Tilburg, associate dean of UNE's College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), attributes the students' success in part to the University of New England's strong support of undergraduate research: "I am particularly proud of these four students, as their selection is not a result of a single accomplishment.  All four students have been involved in undergraduate research throughout their academic careers.  These students were CAS Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) Fellows last summer, have presented at a number of local and national conferences, and worked with CAS faculty for several years," said Tilburg.  "This honor is a testament both to the hard work of the students and to the commitment from the faculty and the College to undergraduate research."

Olivia Hebert

Olivia Hebert, from Westbrook, Maine, has worked for two years in the research lab of Teresa Dzieweczynski, Ph. D., associate professor in UNE's Department of Psychology.  Hebert's time in Dzieweczynski's lab included two summers of research made possible by CAS SURE fellowships.

Under the direction of Dzieweczynski, Hebert examines the effects of inadvertent pharmaceutical exposure on behavioral consistency in male Siamese fighting fish.  She is the co-author of three peer-reviewed publications and the first author on a fourth.  A Sigma Xi Grants-in-Aid of Research award funded the research Hebert is presenting at Posters on the Hill. The project involves the effects of acute exposure to ethinylestradiol (the active ingredient in birth control pills) on the relationship between boldness and decision-making behavior in male Siamese fighting fish.

Andrea Taatjes

Andrea Taatjes, a resident of Westford, Vermont, has worked closely with UNE's Maryann Corsello, M.S., Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology, to evaluate the effectiveness of a Maine juvenile diversion program called Diversion to Assets.  In addition to being the subject of her Posters on the Hill project, this research is the basis for her senior thesis.

Taatjes has participated in two internships during her time at UNE.  At Waban Projects, she worked with autistic children in a classroom setting.  She currently works with a child protective case worker at the Department of Health and Human Services.  Taatjes also serves on a juvenile community review board as the liaison between juveniles and their families and various services and organizations. A member of the Psi Chi National Honor Society, Taatjes has been accepted to graduate school at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology, where she will work toward her doctorate in clinical psychology.

Caitlin Tetreau

Caitlin Tetreau, of Alton, New Hampshire, received an Honorable Mention in the Posters on the Hill competition for her research, "Good Girls Wait, Write, and Work:  Advice Articles for the Wives and Girlfriends of WWII Soldiers," a study of 1940s women's magazines and the advice they gave to girls whose sweethearts were away at war.  Tetreau's research deals primarily with the dichotomy between the idealized women portrayed in the media and real women, who were experiencing the trials of the war.

The project stemmed from Tetreau's work with the Cushing Collection of WWI and WWII letters, which is housed in UNE's Ketchum Library, where Tetreau served as a student archivist from September 2011 to December 2012.  Her experience with the collection spurred her to write a paper for last year's Maine Women Writers Consortium Conference, and to help her UNE mentor, Elizabeth De Wolfe, Ph.D., professor of history, teach a class on war letters.

Sean Naughton

Sean Naughton, from Quincy, Massachusetts, has worked since spring 2011 in the research lab of Amy Keirstead, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Physics. This work was funded by the Maine Space Grant Consortium.  Naughton has worked on three different projects aimed at using photochemical reactions as probes to learn more about the physical and chemical properties of ionic liquids, which are thought to be "green" alternatives to conventional organic solvents and could find use in nanotechnology applications such as dye-sensitized solar cells and molecular electronic devices.

Naughton's work submitted for CUR Posters on the Hill, "Direct Observation of Spiropyran Phosphorescence in Imidazolium Ionic Liquids," describes the unique emission properties of a molecular "on-off" switch (the spiropyran) in ionic liquids and, in particular, reports the first example of spiropyran phosphorescence in ionic liquid media. This work, which he recently published as first author in the scholarly journal Chemical Physics Letters, could lead to the development of robust molecular electronic "on-off" devices that emit red or blue light depending on their "on" or "off" state.  

Tilburg finds noteworthy the fact that the two students who have been invited to present at Posters on the Hill conducted their research projects under the guidance of two members of the same academic department.  ‚ÄúThis is a tremendous accomplishment for the Department of Psychology,‚Äù noted Tilburg.

The Council on Undergraduate Research was founded in 1978.  It is an organization of individual and institutional members, representing over 900 colleges and universities, that works with the undergraduate research community in an effort to educate Congress on the importance of undergraduate research and its continued national funding.

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