Celebrating Student Research at 11th Annual SASH

At the Student Academic Showcase and Honors, undergraduate and graduate students across all schools presented their research and capstone projects to the 澳门六合彩 community.

By Mel Thibeault, Jordan J. Phelan 鈥19, Triniti Brown 鈥26, and Jordan Durfee 鈥24
People in the GHH atrium looking at posters as part of SASH
At the Student Academic Showcase and Honors on April 24, undergraduate and graduate students presented their research and capstone projects.

BRISTOL, R.I. 鈥 From a presentation on preventing wrongful convictions to a digital journalism project about water quality in the Ocean State to an evaluation of removing a local dam, students highlighted their research and capstone projects at the 11th annual Student Academic Showcase and Honors (SASH) on Wednesday, April 24. 

As part of the annual tradition of SASH, undergraduate and graduate students from across all schools present their academic research, Honors Capstone projects, and senior theses and take part in artistic performances and panel discussions during a day-long schedule of events.

鈥淪ASH is such a special moment to celebrate student research across all of our schools and programs,鈥 said Margaret Everett, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs. 鈥淭his year I heard from students in Chemistry, Graphic Design, Journalism, Business and Education, each of them doing impactful work with the mentorship and collaboration of our talented faculty.鈥

Here are just a few of the many projects shared at SASH 2024:  

A student standing in GHH
Senior Jillian Kiazim, a Forensic Science major and Criminal Justice and Spanish double minor, presented her research at SASH about preventing wrongful convictions.
Uncovering and Preventing Wrongful Convictions

According to senior Jillian Kiazim, one in 20 inmates are wrongfully convicted, which means that 5 percent of people imprisoned are innocent. As part of her Honors Capstone project, Kiazim, a Forensic Science major and Criminal Justice and Spanish double minor from Wolcott, Conn., sought to uncover the main causes behind wrongful convictions and propose reforms to the criminal justice system to prevent more innocent people from ending up behind bars. 

Among the primary causes of wrongful convictions are eyewitness misidentification, false confessions, forensic errors, and personal biases and prejudices, especially racial biases, she said. With that in mind, Kiazim proposed reforms for preventing wrongful convictions: adjusting lineups and implementing 鈥渄ouble blind鈥 lineups in which the police officer in charge doesn鈥檛 know the details of the case and thus cannot lead the witness to a specific conclusion; separation of witnesses after a crime so there is no 鈥渨itness talk,鈥 which could skew each other鈥檚 memory; emphasizing the importance of quality assurance and requiring accreditation for all crime and forensic labs in the U.S.; and mandating anti-bias workshops for all law enforcement agents, lab analysts, jury members, and other members of the criminal justice system to decrease their personal biases.

Last summer Kiazim interned with the Rhode Island State Crime Lab where she shadowed various lab analysts and staff in the trace evidence division, fingerprint division, firearms division, and the quality assurance program manager. 鈥淚 learned the importance of accurate, precise work at the forensic level and its impact on the outcome of criminal cases because one simple mistake in a forensic analysis can lead to the wrong person going to jail,鈥 she said. 鈥淚 definitely hope to pursue a career in a lab, whether it's forensics or a general science lab. I definitely want to contribute to accurate, precise work being done in scientific labs.鈥

Five students stand next to their poster about the Shad Dam removal plan
Senior Engineering majors Stephen Hansen, Chase Steenburgh, Amanda Bucco, Michelle Kryl, and Robert Reino present their research and recommendation for removing the Shad Factory Pond Dam in Rehoboth, Mass. 
Evaluating the Removal of the Shad Factory Pond Dam  

As part of their Senior Engineering Capstone project, five students spent this past academic year evaluating the Shad Factory Pond Dam in Rehoboth, Mass., owned by the Bristol County Water Authority, in order to make a recommendation about whether to remove the dam or keep it in place.  

Stephen Hansen, a Civil Engineering major and Mathematics minor from Middleton, Mass., Chase Steenburgh, a Civil Engineering major and Mathematics minor from Albany, N.Y., Amanda Bucco, a Civil Engineering major and Mathematics and Architecture double minor from Long Island, N.Y., Michelle Kryl, an Environmental Engineering major and Mathematics minor from West Hampton Beach, N.Y., and Robert Reino, a Civil Engineering major and Mathematics minor from Worcester, N.Y., ultimately concluded that the dam, which is no longer in use, should be removed, saying that the advantages outweigh any disadvantages.

As Bucco explained, she and her team conducted an analysis of the water quality and the existing conditions of the dam last semester, concluding that invasive plants had overtaken the pond and that the water is in poor condition. Removing the dam would provide many advantages, the group said, including returning the Palmer River, which flows into the pond, back to its natural flow conditions; re-establishing a path for native fish migration; removing invasive aquatic plants; and improving water quality.

With that recommendation in mind, this semester the students conducted a hydraulic and hydrologic study to determine the downstream impacts if the dam were to be removed and determine if flooding would become an issue. They also formulated a dam removal plan that suggests the dam should be deconstructed in multiple sections until it鈥檚 completely gone and created a sediment management plan to prevent contaminating the water with any sediment that built up behind the dam. Among their recommendations for further analysis are a detailed structural and hydraulic analysis prior to dam removal and sediment sampling and testing.

The group also presented this research at the New England Water Environment Association annual conference in Boston in January.

Both Bucco and Kryl shared that this research project has provided them with skills that they will carry into their careers. 鈥淭his project has been an important part in preparing me for graduate school, fostering my abilities through hands-on and conceptual research as well as dynamic presentations,鈥 said Kryl, who will be pursuing a Ph.D. in Ocean Science and Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. 鈥淔rom creating informative posters to delivering PowerPoint presentations, I鈥檝e been able to hone in my ability to convey complex information to diverse audiences.鈥

A student standing on the shore of Narragansett Bay with 澳门六合彩's learning platform in the background
Senior Emily Rosen, a Journalism major and Political Science minor, filmed a three-minute digital journalism news package about water quality in Rhode Island.
Reporting on Water Quality in Rhode Island  

When senior Emily Rosen (she/they) set out to interview an engineer with the Narragansett Bay Commission (NBC), she never expected to find herself 125 feet underground in the combined sewer overflows (CSO) tunnel that NBC is constructing under Pawtucket and Central Falls, R.I., to divert wastewater away from the bay and into treatment facilities. But when offered the chance to go into the tunnel and film, they donned a hard hat and protective goggles and the resulting shots were well worth it, Rosen said.

The footage that Rosen captured that day is part of her final Environmental Journalism Capstone and Honors Capstone project, a three-minute focused on restoring the water quality in Rhode Island鈥檚 freshwater bodies. Rosen, a Journalism major and Political Science minor, from Attleboro, Mass., interviewed sources from NBC and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management as well as people recreating near the water at Colt State Park in Bristol, R.I. They also captured b-roll and did all of the filming and recording for the project, which was part of a Journalism class that partnered with the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program to tell stories related to the bay. 

The goal of Rosen鈥檚 news package was to explore the health of the Blackstone, Seekonk, and Providence rivers, including the important roles the rivers serve, what work is being done to help improve water quality, and a brief history of water quality including contamination stemming from the Industrial Revolution.

鈥淭his project made me realize how much I like video work. I hope I can do something like that in the future,鈥 said Rosen, who will be interning with the American Meteorological Society this summer while looking for full-time positions related to visual storytelling. 鈥淚 really enjoy getting to go to these places and talk to people and then putting it all together and getting information out to people. I love being able to tell a story from start to finish.鈥

Six MBA students standing next to their poster at SASH
MBA candidates Isabella Wierzbicki 鈥23, Orlando Fernandes 鈥23, Kevin Murphy 鈥23, Edward Troyano 鈥23, Nathan Nichols 鈥23, and Ari Dinerman 鈥23 with their poster about crisis management solutions.
Serving as Crisis Consultants in Greece  

For a week this spring, the 2024 Master of Business Administration cohort traveled to Athens, Greece, to work as crisis management consultants to four businesses as part of the business program鈥檚 international learning experience. 澳门六合彩鈥檚 Mario J. Gabelli School of Business partnered with the American College of Greece (ACG) to develop the program, which is funded by a U.S. Department of Education grant. 

After studying crisis management in their classes at 澳门六合彩, the students met with business representatives in Athens and began preparing their own analyses of the business鈥檚 response to crisis. As part of one group, Isabella Wierzbicki 鈥23, of Wareham, Mass., Orlando Fernandes 鈥23, of Trumball, Conn., Kevin Murphy 鈥23, of Ramsey, N.J., Edward Troyano 鈥23, of Wading River, N.Y., Nathan Nichols 鈥23, of Framingham, Mass., and Ari Dinerman 鈥23, of Ashland, Mass., worked with Motodynamics, a sports car and motorcycle distributor.

Dinerman said his group analyzed how the company dealt with the 2008 financial crisis and then did their own research to make recommendations on what they could have done differently. At the end of the week, the students presented their recommendations to company representatives. Their short-term recommendation is to create a crisis management team in case other crises arise in the future, he said. For long-term recommendations, he said they suggested the company looks at internationalization or expanding into other countries, which will help with diversification in case a financial crisis happens again. They should also move into countries with higher winter tourism because their rental car company only sees profits in the summer, he added.

After graduating in May, Nichols said he will be working for a family business, H.D. Chasen Company, based in Somerville, Mass., and hopes to implement the knowledge he learned from his experience in Greece, especially the importance of having a crisis management team. 鈥淗aving plans in place just in case something like the crisis of 2008 does happen, that鈥檚 the biggest takeaway for me.鈥

To hear more from the MBA cohort about their crisis management solutions, attend the Crisis Management Symposium on Friday, May 3.

Senior Ryan Spillane stands, smiling, in front of a screen displaying the title slide of his housing density project
Senior Ryan Spillane, an Architecture major, with his presentation on designing affordable housing in Boston.
Designing Affordable, Sustainable Spaces

For his Honors Capstone, based on his most recent Architecture studio project, senior Ryan Spillane focused on urban living, specifically designing affordable housing in the Boston area that balances density with open space.

Spillane, an Architecture major from Medway, Mass., said his goal was to emphasize sustainability, density, porosity, and urban connection, as he wanted to maximize density while providing residents with outdoor areas. The building he designed was oriented for natural ventilation and daylighting. Regarding sustainability, Spillane stressed the importance of carefully considering building materials for both short-term and long-term environmental impacts, especially focused on the harvesting or creation and transportation of materials, as that tends to be where most carbon is produced in the process (especially for timber and iron).

Noting that rising costs are pushing young people out of cities like Boston, Spillane reflected on how architecture can advocate for affordable housing through thoughtful, sustainable design. As an example, his project sought to create dense urban living that benefits both residents and the environment.

鈥淭he biggest thing I took away from this project is the importance of incorporating the community more rather than just from an architectural focus,鈥 said Spillane, who will be pursuing his Master of Architecture degree at 澳门六合彩. 鈥淭he field of architecture is interdisciplinary, as we work with contractors and engineers, so getting other people's perspectives is crucial.鈥

Two students standing next to their poster that reads "Climate Change and Mental Health"
Senior Delaney Meserve and sophomore Tracy Pham, both Public Health majors, with their poster about climate change and its impacts on mental health.
Proposing Solutions for Climate Change鈥檚 Effects on Mental Health  

Three Public Health majors investigated the effects that climate change has on people鈥檚 mental health and proposed solutions for improving access to mental health resources.

Seniors Delaney Meserve, of Bridgton, Maine, and Olivia Crocker, of South Burlington, Vt., and sophomore Tracy Pham, of Worcester, Mass., explained that climate change contributes to the mental health crisis, specifically among vulnerable populations, and worsens pre-existing conditions. For people already struggling with poor social support and limited resources, witnessing the loss of homes and loved ones due to climate disasters can increase depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The students emphasized that stigma around mental health can delay access to essential services.

Roughly one billion people live with mental health conditions, according to the World Health Organization, the students said, and climate change causes anxiety, depression, and PTSD related to uncertainty about the future and traumatic climate-related events. They also noted that pre-existing mental conditions are worsened by rising temperatures.

The students concluded that there is an opportunity for research on how climate change and mental health are linked, but limited funding causes a shortage of data, leading to limited mental health services and resources. They also called for more affordable and accessible mental health care, such as therapy, and the integration of climate discourse and mental health in educational institutions and for the general public.

Meserve, who is also a Psychology and Food Studies double minor, said she is actively looking for a job in the fields of mental and physical health and that she can take what she鈥檚 learned from this research project into her career. 鈥淔ocusing on mental health and seeing how it impacts with our climate is important because it will matter in the future,鈥 she said.

Three seniors with their poster on exploring careers in Construction Management
Senior Construction Management majors Marielli Alifonso, Alivia Degrotta, and Darian Wulf with their research on perceptions of superintendents and project managers. 
Exploring Career Outlooks in Construction Management

Responding to misconceptions about careers in the construction industry, three senior Construction Management majors have researched perceptions of superintendents and project managers to determine which position is more crucial to a project鈥檚 success and which role has a greater career outlook nationally.  

Marielli Alifonso, from Providence, R.I., Alivia Degrotta, from Queens, N.Y., and Darian Wulf, from Swampscott, Mass., said the aim of their study was to explore the views on superintendents and project managers and how they may differ depending on the region of the country, industry sector and company鈥檚 size and type of work. Superintendents and project managers are both instrumental roles with construction, and while they have similar daily tasks, the difference is where they operate, Alifonso said. Superintendents are managing in an office setting while project managers are managing on-site.

To collect data, the students conducted an online survey with industry professionals and gathered information about what skills are perceived as critical for project success including soft skills, leadership, experience in construction industry, and technology usage from the perspective of superintendents, project managers, and employees.

The results of their study will provide insight into the perceptions of superintendents and project managers from industry professionals and how they perceive themselves and their opportunities. They found that there was significant overlap in what skills are most important from both pools of personnel. They also said there are opportunities for future research into the topic, including seeking more participants from the West Coast and the residential sector.

The students presented their findings at the Associated Schools of Construction International Conference in Auburn, Ala., in April.

鈥淚 found this research very valuable because as a Construction Management student, I can take on superintendent and project manager roles, and this research really aids in helping me know what skills employers are looking for,鈥 said Alifonso, who minored in Business Management and has accepted a job as a project engineer with Gilbane in Florida.

Three students with their research poster on body-worn cameras
Senior Criminal Justice majors Nick Muha, Kiera Jan, and Nicole Auger with their research on whether police who wear body cameras engage less in certain misbehaviors. 
Investigating the Role of Body Cameras in Deterring Police Misbehavior   

If police are required to wear body cameras, does that prevent them from engaging in certain misbehaviors, including excessive violence, unwarranted arrests, and shootings? This is the answer three senior Criminal Justice majors set out to find.

Nicole Auger, who is also double majoring in Psychology from Hampton, Conn., Kiera Jan, who is minoring in Psychology from Suffield, Conn., and Nick Muha, from Scituate, Mass., looked at statistics from 10 cities across the U.S., noting the years that these cities implemented body-worn cameras as well as trends before and after that year. They reviewed the numbers of police shootings, annual arrests, civilian complaints, and uses of less-lethal force, which they defined as including batons, chemical sprays, and tasers.

The student-researchers said they calculated the increase and decrease rates to determine if the body cameras deterred police misbehavior and discovered that there were also a lot of external factors that can affect these rates. While they noted further research should be conducted, they concluded that body cameras ultimately provide much more transparency between the community and police departments by holding police more accountable, thus having an overall positive effect.

Auger, who will be working for a private investigating company in Connecticut after graduating from 澳门六合彩, said her work on this project has helped prepare her for her new job because private investigating involves a lot of research and compiling data. 鈥淭his project taught me to look at external factors that could play into it. Data points may show you one thing, but there's a lot of reasons why,鈥 she said.  

Two students standing next to their poster about droughts
Seniors Amanda Paulhus and Rachel Rodrigues, both Environmental Science majors, with their research on whether droughts affect water quality in Rhode Island.
Explaining the Role of Droughts in Water Quality Across Rhode Island

Some people think that Rhode Island doesn鈥檛 experience periods of drought, but that鈥檚 not true, said seniors Amanda Paulhus and Rachel Rodrigues. In fact, with continuing climate change, the state is going to experience more extreme dry and wet periods, Paulhus said. For that reason, it鈥檚 important to understand what鈥檚 happening to all bodies of water in Rhode Island because changes to nutrients and temperatures are going to affect drinking water, fishing, recreation, and more.

Wanting to investigate whether drought status explains water quality across the state of Rhode Island, Paulhus, an Environmental Science major and Mathematics minor from Foster, R.I., and Rodrigues, an Environmental Science major and Sustainability Studies minor from Warren, R.I., used data from the University of Rhode Island鈥檚 Watershed Watch database to look at lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, and reservoirs and analyze information from 150 sites from 1988 to 2021. They noted that drought status has been known to affect water quality in other locations but hasn鈥檛 been studied extensively in southern New England.

After merging water quality values against the Standardized Precipitation-Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI), which accounts for temperature, Paulhus and Rodrigues concluded that drought status did not explain water quality variations with the low frequency data sampling that they and for future research, they should look at high frequency data to better capture variations in water quality. 

Both Paulhus and Rodrigues said they are actively applying for jobs in the environmental field and that this research has given them skills they can use in their careers. 鈥淎fter Roger Williams, I want to be doing hydrology fieldwork, so it鈥檚 very important to be looking at these different parameters to study the effects of climate change,鈥 Rodrigues said. 鈥淏y doing this type of research, it鈥檚 getting our foot in the door to be able to further explain these variations.鈥

Olivia Agoros with her research poster at SASH
Olivia Agoros 鈥23,who will be graduating with a Master鈥檚 of Special Education, with her research on the implementation and outcomes of an Elkonin Box Instruction intervention.
Implementing Elkonin Box Instruction for Students with a Learning Disability

For her research project, Olivia Agoros 鈥23,who will be graduating with a Master鈥檚 of Special Education this May, focused on the implementation and outcomes of an Elkonin Box Instruction intervention, which is designed to enhance phonological awareness skills in students with learning disabilities and developmental delays, particularly by focusing on phoneme segmentation and spelling.

Agoros, from Middletown, R.I., said Elkonin Boxes were used in one of her student teaching practices and noted that it鈥檚 a simple, cost-effective way to keep students engaged and refine their literacy skills. Elkonin Boxes are visual tools, usually drawn as a series of boxes, each representing a sound in a word, which helps children break down words into distinct sounds or letters. This is an important step for students learning to read and write.

As part of her research, she tracked two students' progress and incorporated targeted instruction based on individualized education plans (IEPs). The intervention involved working with blends and phoneme segmentation, with a focus on consonant-vowel-consonant words (CVC) words. She shared data indicating improvements in literacy skills for both students but said there were considerations regarding baseline scores and behavioral challenges affecting the progress she documented in the students.

鈥淚 was in special education when I was younger, so I understand what it鈥檚 like to be in their shoes,鈥 said Agoros. 鈥淭his multi-sensory approach is something I would like to incorporate in my interventions with students, so I can definitely see myself doing this in the future.鈥