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Mario M. Casabona Future Scientists Competition Recap

The event, held virtually for the first time, showcased the depth of knowledge and preparedness of our students

Posted in: Applied Mathematics & Statistics, Biology, Chemistry & Biochemistry, Computer Science, CSAM Students, Earth & Environmental Studies, Mathematics, Physics & Astronomy, Research

Casabona Future Scientists Competition Zoom room

CSAM was happy to hold the Mario M. Casabona Future Scientists Competition virtually this year. Mr. Casabona was joined by a distinguished panel of judges, Harvey D. Homan, Paul Lewis, Kris Ohleth and Judith Sheft. A large group of faculty, staff, students and guests tuned in to this final round, a mix of student lightning posters and talks, all competing for awards.

With Associate Dean Scott Kight as MC, the event kicked off with a poster presentation by Kimberly Calix, a Biochemistry major, discussing the pretreatment of proteins using heat to optimize its structure. John Notte, a Physics major, then presented on the upcoming upgrade of the LIGO detector, the Advanced LIGO Plus project.

Our first full talk was next with Anthony Gachetti, an Earth & Environmental Science major, who discussed climate change and using the paleoclimate record to make predictions. This longer presentation was also the first opportunity for the judges to ask a full set of questions which Anthony met effectively with enthusiasm. He was rated the highest in this area by the judges in their assessment.

Following Anthony were Katherine Schaffer, a Chemistry major, and Sarah Acquaviva, a Mathematics major both presenting posters. Katherine’s presentation dove into the use of electrochemical sensors for the imaging of neurotransmitters. Then Sarah’s poster looked at the use of caps on classes as a means to control viral outbreaks. The timeliness of this presentation stood out to the judges in the poster category.

Hope Diamantopoulos, a Computer Science major, had the next five minute talk. Her work looked into the teaching of emotions to improve worker-robot collaborations as we move toward more automated production. The strength of the algorithms effectiveness and its applicability really impressed the judges.

Evelyn Visan, a Molecular Biology major, and Allison Conlon, an Applied Mathematics and Statistics major, closed out the poster presentations. Evelyn’s research looked at the development of a rapid test to diagnose Ranavirus, a disease that has the potential to quickly ravage populations of amphibians, fish and reptiles. Allison came on next to discuss the effectiveness of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Using publicly available data Allison looked at the wealth of various individuals and the effects of the TCJA on those individuals

The final presentation, and final five minute talk, was given by Paolo Turano, a Biology major. His work looked at coconut oil’s effectiveness for weight loss. Paolo also studied the effect of this dietary change on the liver, specifically its contribution to Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD). His findings showed little impact from a dietary perspective, and in males, an increased risk of NAFLD.

Following the presentations, the judges deliberated and the audience casted their votes for their favorite. After a short time we had our results!

  • Best Poster Award – Sarah Acquaviva
  • Third Place Talk Award – Paolo Turano
  • Second Place Talk Award – Anthony Gachetti
  • First Place Talk Award – Hope Diamantopoulos
    Best Mentor Award – Dr. Weitian Wang
  • Audience Favorite Award – Paolo Turano

Thank you to the judges for your time, input and feedback to the students. Congratulations to each of the students that participated in the event, your research and presentation of that information embodies what we hope to enable in all of our students in the College of Science and Mathematics!

Learn more about the event, the judges and the participants on the 2021 Mario M. Casabona Future Scientists Program website