Students and Faculty Present at Fall into Research

Natalie Bombatch

posted October 10, 2014


The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown hosted its second annual Fall into Research: A Day of Scholarship on October 8, 2014. More than 50 faculty members and undergraduate students presented their summer work during an informal evening of socializing, research, and scholarship excellence.

Innovative student and faculty research, and scholarly and creative projects were presented, including several resulting from the Pitt-Johnstown and Windber Research Institute partnership, which focuses on internships/educational opportunities, faculty/scientist exchange, and scientific symposia; and the Summer Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR): Biodiversity program, which funds biodiversity themed research on the Pitt-Johnstown Natural Area.

Senior creative writing and English literature major Moriah Howell participated in the symposium, presenting her academic research from the summer.  She worked with Assistant Professor of English Writing/Literary Journalism Marissa Landrigan to take photos and video, as well as collect works from students and faculty that were written at or inspired by a specific natural area on campus. Howell then created a website to showcase the scientific and creative work she collected.

Howell commented, “I was able to use a broad range of skills that would not have otherwise come to light in a project. When applying to graduate schools, I can show them not only my creative talents when it comes to writing and photography, but also my technical abilities with website building and video editing.”

"Even on a campus this size we don't often have an opportunity to share our intellectual lives outside of the classroom with the UPJ community. Fall into Research allows that. Faculty showcase their research, scholarly, and creative activities to other faculty and to students interested in participating in projects," said Karen Lee, associate professor of biology and undergraduate research coordinator. "Collaborations among faculty are born at events like this. Students discover opportunities they did not know existed. For students who present, it's a chance to share what they have accomplished and to show fellow students what is possible."

As part of the Pitt-Johnstown Windber Research Institute (WRI) Partnership, scientists from WRI were invited to present their work at the Fall into Research showcase. This was an opportunity for them to share their research interests with the Pitt-Johnstown Community. Other presentations highlighted projects that have been a direct result of the partnership and include work to understand the cellular mechanism of transition metal complexes that display anti-tumor activity, an investigation into the relationship between the Epstein-Barr and tumor growth, and a GIS study to learn more about possible cancer clusters. These projects grew out of informal gatherings of Pitt-Johnstown faculty and the scientists from WRI.

Working with George Iida, director of cell biology at Windber Research Institute and Lisa Bell-Loncella, associate professor of chemistry; Pitt-Johnstown student Marc Purazo, said, "I have always known science was detailed. It opened my eyes to how detailed. This showed me why the questions have to be so detailed.”

Undergraduate research, scholarly and creative projects allow students the opportunity, under the guidance of a faculty mentor, to be involved in their discipline in ways that are often not possible in the classroom. Students who participate in these projects often learn to work in teams, to speak and write about their projects and have the chance to indulge interests that are often not covered in traditional coursework. For students planning to go to graduate school, these projects give them a taste of what to expect. For students planning to enter the job market, these projects often provide them with real marketable skills in their chosen profession.

For more information about undergraduate research, click here.


Founded in 1927, Pitt-Johnstown is located in the Laurel Highlands of Western Pennsylvania and is the first and largest regional campus of the University of Pittsburgh. Pitt-Johnstown is the regional leader, educating for the RealWorld. The distinctive combination of our people, programs, and place results in exceptional performance in preparing students for career and professional success. Pitt-Johnstown is recognized by the Princeton Review as a “Best in the Northeast” college, by G.I. Jobs as a “Military Friendly School,” and by Pennsylvania Business Central as a "Top 100 Organization.” Additionally, Pitt-Johnstown has been presented with The Seven Seals Award by the US Department of Defense’s office of Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR).