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Eight Austin Peay students present their undergraduate research at Posters at the Capitol

On Wednesday, Feb. 15, undergraduate STEM researchers from around the state gathered at the State Capitol for the annual Posters at the Capitol event.

Among them were several exceptional students from the APSU College of STEM who had the opportunity to showcase their research to state officials, including Gov. Bill Lee, Sen. Bill Powers and Rep. Jeff Burkhart. Notably, APSU President Mike Licari and Provost Maria Cronley also attended the event in support of the university's talented scholars.

Posters at the Capitol is an annual event where undergraduate students studying science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) from universities across Tennessee share their research projects with state lawmakers at the State Capitol building in Nashville. The event is an opportunity for students to display their research and engage with policymakers, giving them a chance to showcase the significant impact of their work on the state’s economy and future.

This year, eight Austin Peay students attended the event. They are:

Samantha Deems

Samantha Deems

The title of Deems’ poster is “Math Manipulatives for Special Education Students,” and her research was made possible through a $1,000 grant from the Tennessee Mathematics Teachers Association.

She worked with Dr. Marylu Dalton, assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. Deems is a junior majoring in elementary education with a minor in professional education.

She plans to become an elementary school teacher in Dickson, Tennessee. She plans to earn her master’s degree and other higher-level degrees.

“This experience was the best experience I have had,” she said. “I got to share my love for teaching and show people the importance of math manipulatives and any other manipulatives in other subjects for special education students.”

Yuriy Holovchak

Yuriy Holovchak

Holovchak, a sophomore double majoring in engineering physics and computer science, presented his research on “Special Glasses for Integrated Photonic and Electronic Platforms.”

Posters at the Capitol allowed Holovchak to showcase his work to a wider audience, including state legislators and members of the public.

“Instead of explaining my research in the usual scientific way, I had to delve deeper into the specifics about why my research was important and how it could bring a lasting impact into today’s society,” he said. “This was my first-ever attempt at looking at the broader scope of my work and explaining how my research would benefit the general public, instead of just the scientific community.”

Through this experience, Holovchak gained valuable skills in communicating research to people of different educational backgrounds.

“Because of this experience, I believe that I can more clearly see the vision that researchers have in mind when they attempt to discover technology that would make modern machines more efficient and effective,” he said.

Holovchak plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Physics and work with quantum technology firms before establishing his own quantum technology company. He worked on the research with Drs. Roman Golovchak and Andriy Kovalskiy, professors in Austin Peay's Department of Physics, Engineering and Astronomy.

Destiny Mathews

Destiny Mathews

Mathews presented a poster, titled “Photo-Induced Structural Changes of Germanium-Based Thin Films,” showcased the research she conducted with her fellow APSU student, Peyton Simpson, and APSU chemistry professor Dr. Carrie Brennan.

The poster also highlighted the research they conducted in the Czech Republic last summer as part of an International Research Experience for Students-supported trip, where they collaborated with European universities to advance their research.

Mathews is a junior majoring in chemistry and aspires to obtain a Ph.D. in environmental chemistry while working in environmental materials research.

“As someone passionate about environmental causes, it's encouraging to know that we, as students, can engage with legislators and make a difference,” Mathews said.

This summer, Mathews will travel to the University of Wisconsin-Madison for a 10-week Research Experiences for Undergraduates in the Chemistry of Materials for Renewable Energy Program.

Chloe Hemmelgarn

Chloe Hemmelgarn

Hemmelgarn, a junior majoring in biology, presented her poster, titled “Understanding Forensic Science Through a Statistical Lens,” showcases her collaboration with Dr. Ramanjit K. Sahi, a professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics.

“After I graduate, I hope to get into med school and become a forensic pathologist,” she said. “This experience has impacted me by providing an opportunity to further my knowledge of how to present at these types of events.”

Michael Truax

Michael Truax

Truax, a senior majoring in biology, presented his poster, titled “Fiber Evanescence Wave Spectroscopy Application in Fabry’s Disease Diagnosis,” showcases his collaboration with the University of Rzeszow in Poland during last summer’s International Research Experience for Students in Europe.

He hopes to attend medical school.

“This experience let me show the bigwigs running the state just what cool research we get to do and the advances that the leaders of tomorrow are making in scientific fields,” he said.

April Torres

April Torres

Torres presented a poster titled “Descriptive Analysis of Puerto Rico’s Excess Mortality after Hurricane Maria” at Posters at the Capitol.

Torres is a first-year graduate student pursuing a Master of Science in Computer Science and Quantitative Methods with a concentration in mathematical finance. Torres worked with Sahi.

“My goal is to get out of my comfort zone by exploring the financial world and engage in my passion to help others,” she said. “The experience provided me a chance to engage with fellow students about their research while providing a chance to engage with legislators.”

Amber King

Amber King

King presented a poster titled “Performance Measurement of Real Estate Mutual Funds” at Posters at the Capitol. King worked with Sahi.

King is a first-year mathematics major with a concentration in actuarial science and plans to work as an actuary as she finishes her Society of Actuaries Associate certification.

“I love finance math because it’s seen everywhere and so is its impact,” she said. “The capitol is a hub for this activity at the government level, which is amazing to see.”

Dairian Boddy

Dairian Boddy

Boddy presented a poster titled “A Newly Documented Zinc Vein Near Russellville, Kentucky: Implications for Critical Metals Across Central TN and KY.”

Boddy is a senior who graduates in the spring of 2024 with a Bachelor of Science in Geology. He intends to go to graduate school with a focus on volcanology.

“I was able to use what I have learned over the last 3-4 years to explain my research to an audience that knows next to nothing about geology,” he said. “The fact that I was able to describe my work accurately and confidently in a way that someone who knows nothing about my field, as well as maintain their interest, was both a rewarding and uplifting experience.

“This experience is something that I will look back at for the rest of my life with a feeling of accomplishment, if I could do it all over again, I would in a heartbeat.”

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