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Two Loyola Undergrads Win Research Competition at National Meeting

Loyola press release - November 9, 2016

Research on white-tailed deer, spiders, invasive plants and honeybees helps Loyola students to bring home top prizes

Loyola University New Orleans seniors presented scientific research last weekend at a national conference – and came home with top prizes. Both students are member of the University Honors program at Loyola, where undergraduate students work side by side with Loyola faculty on federally funded and state-funded scientific grants.

Environmental science major Melanie Sferrazza, ’17 and biology major Michael Pashkevich, ’17 presented their research in the Mentored Undergraduate Research Poster Competition at the Annual Professional Development Conference of the National Association of Biology Teachers, held Nov. 3-6 in Denver, Colo. They competed against other college students who have done research in their disciplines and were judged by scientists and science educators in their respective fields.

“One of the things that makes Loyola unique is that our STEM students have the opportunity to engage in scholarly research at the undergraduate level,” said biology and environment researcher and lecturer Aimeé Thomas. “Our students are actively pursuing research on topics ranging from developmental biology to ecosystem ecology.”

Pashkevich, who last year won the prestigious national 2016 Goldwater Scholarship honoring students pursuing scholarly research in science, technology, mathematics or engineering, placed first in the competition for his work entitled “Indirect effects of white-tailed deer on southeast Louisiana spider communities.” Sferrazza placed second for her study entitled “Use of invasive plants by honeybees in an urban setting.”

This is not the first time Pashkevich and Sferrazza have made headlines. Last spring, the honors students studied in the Everglades with Partners in the Parks, an outdoor experiential learning program coordinated by the National Collegiate Honors Council and supported by Loyola's Environment Program and University Honors. On this trip, they learned more about invasive species threatening our national parks.

“Our students and faculty engaged in environmental field biology for this research, and communicating findings to the public, scientific, and science education communities is what we do here,” said Environment Program Director Craig Hood. "We are so proud of them all."