Student Research Day: Inspiration at All-Time High

[Editor’s Note: Updated March 2, 2012 with a red asterisk (*) next to the session winners who will represent the university at the CSU Student Research Competition May 4 and 5 at CSU Long Beach]

A record 215 undergraduate and graduate students competed at the Seventh Annual CSU Dominguez Hills Student Research Day on Thursday, Feb 23. During the day-long event, in just about every nook and cranny of Loker Student Union’s upper level, students presented details of their scholarly research and creative works through oral presentations before an audience, posters displayed on easels, or through live performances and exhibitions of original artwork.

Peter Halcrow, a graduate student in biology, presents his research, "Non-Contact Ultrasound Imaging Applied to Cortical Bon Phantoms," which he did with faculty mentor Ken Ganezer, physics.

Participation has grown every year, and this year with 137 presentations from 28 majors and programs, it was the largest CSU Dominguez Hills competition to date, according to Louis Mark Carrier, professor and chair of the psychology department and event coordinator. Of the presentations, 42 featured graduate students as the lead author, 95 featured undergraduate students as the lead author, and one alumnus was a co-presenter.

Presentations were made in the fields of behavioral and social sciences; biology; business and public administration; computer science; health, nutrition, and clinical science; humanities and letters; and physical and mathematical science. Additionally—although it has been available at the annual statewide CSU Student Research Competition—for the first time at CSU Dominguez Hills, students competed in the creative arts category.

Describing Student Research Day as a centerpiece of academic achievement at CSU Dominguez Hills, University President Mildred García said it recognizes students who are engaged in research.

“The more students are in engaged in high impact practices—and engaging students in research is one of them—the more likely they will graduate and move on to [work in their fields of study] and [in what they] believe in so much,” said García. “Students bring in young, new perspectives. Together, faculty and students are creating new knowledge.”

The university president said she has witnessed the success of the competition during her five-year tenure, and according to several returning faculty participants, Student Research Day is an anticipated event because of the reward of seeing students, and their faculty and professional mentors, excel and take pride in their work. But many first-time presenters, judges and visitors didn’t know exactly what to expect from Student Research Day. For most, what they discovered turned out to be inspiring as well as educational.

Art and design major Kellan King discusses his sculpture, "Cornus Melaleucanus". King was one of the session winners and will go on to reprsent CSUDH at the CSU statewide competition in May

Jill Aguilar, associate professor of teacher education and first time judge, was struck by the seriousness, focus and authenticity of the presenters.

“It feels a like a real conference,” she said.

For senior business major Charli Howard, visiting the competition for the first time was a mandatory assignment. After seeing a couple of the presentations of public service announcements (PSA) created by students, she gave thought to what occurs beyond the classroom:

“It opens up your eyes to a whole [other] realm than just go to class, get the grade, get it done. It shows you what creates what we’re studying, in a way,” Howard said.

Like many visitors who were introduced to topics outside their field of study, senior double major (psychology and Chicano/a studies) Guillermo Moreno, found the presentations convincing and the presenters to be well-informed about their research topics.

“I think it’s very motivational for students to present things that they feel very strongly about,” Moreno said.

Senior psychology major German Saucedo came to check out presentations in his major, as well as browse outside of his field of study, of which he commented, “I saw the one about healthy foods in cafeterias. I learned that it’s very important to how you eat—especially for people of minorities. I could use this [information] in my own life.”

Whether a visitor, judge or competitor, everyone seemed to have learned something from their experiences at Student Research Day.

Presenter-turned-judge Katie Stahl, now a doctoral dance theory student at UC Riverside, found herself on a panel judging a presentation in the creative arts category, “An Overview of the Life and Work of Cambodian Artist You Khin,” presented by Jessica Portillo. Stahl asked a tough question of Portillo and said later that she had been asked tough questions when she was a presenter, which helped her to analyze her work and direct her subsequent research regarding Cambodian dance.

Speaking of students, first-time judge Aguilar said, “It totally blows a hole in their world,” adding that students discover possibilities they may not have considered before, and by participating in the competition, they see themselves achieving in their fields.

Some students in the science fields presented research they had been a part of during summer research programs,  at which advanced level work in labs were being conducted with professionals who are expanding frontiers in scientific knowledge. As a judge, part of what Aguilar was looking to find out was what role presenters had in their studies. She was also trying to determine how well the students understand how the research they are engaged in relates to scientific information that already exists.

“One of [the presenters in the science category] went to a lab in Florida and learned to sort out proteins, and another went to a lab in Indiana and learned how to do computer analyses of proteins,” said Aguilar. “Many projects were created, set up and run by professional researchers and the students were research associates.”

But understanding one’s work isn’t the only important aspect of research. Being able to communicate and explain it is an integral aspect of advancing knowledge. Another criterion for judging was how well students could explain their projects to a non-expert in their field,  the layperson. As a judge in the science category, Cynthia Grutzik, acting director and associate dean for the School of Education said Student Research Day gives students a chance to practice presenting their findings.

Retelling what she asked of the presenters, Grutzik said, “We’re out of the field, so this is your chance to tell us in language we can understand, so we can make sense of this.”

Grutzik added that stepping out of her discipline and seeing the research of her colleagues and their students helped her appreciate what other departments are doing.

Chiara Landsman (left) and Joanna Villegas talk with mentor Enrique Ortega, health sciences lecture about their poster on "The Concurrent Effects of Parenting and REligiousity on Adolescent Academic Values and Achievement Among Italian and Dutch Adolescents

For presenters, expectations of Student Research Day differed. Some primarily wanted to share their research findings, while others wanted to keep their projects on schedule. First-time presenter Larry Han, a graduate student in biology, entered his poster in the competition as a way to give himself a deadline to write his thesis. Although he wasn’t prepared for the level of professionalism displayed at the event, he seemed undaunted, and said the quality and content of the explanations were most important, regardless of the area of study.

“The psychology experiments were interesting because [practitioners in that field] have a different method of writing. Biological sciences are very concise…specific; ‘these are the numbers…. Numbers, numbers, numbers, and this is what we found… the results are this.’ Theirs are more like, ‘OK, so there’s a story here.’ It’s more eloquent, I guess. It’s very different. It’s like seeing a movie with a different perspective,” said Han, adding that he was having fun browsing posters, visiting with friends and enjoying the free food.

Continuing the celebration of achievement, immediately following the competition, an evening reception was held at the University Library. Participants and guests honored presenters, and cheered for session winners as their names were called. Dr. Ramón Torrecilha, provost and vice president of academic affairs, who spent the day visiting presentations and viewing posters, lauded the students for their academic excellence.

“What a treat you gave me today. I’m really impressed by the depth and the quality of your work,” said Torrecilha. “This evening we celebrate your imagination ….and we celebrate knowledge that you have created and discovered, through the systematic collection of information and through analysis. We also celebrate knowledge that comes to us through creative endeavors. That pushes the boundaries of academic disciplines and synthesizes information across fields and topics.”

From the session winners, each first place presentation was awarded a $100 cash prize and each second place presentation was awarded a $50 cash prize. Overall winners (indicated with an * below) will be selected from the session winners to represent CSU Dominguez Hills at the statewide 26th Annual California State University Student Research Competition to be held at CSU Long Beach on May 4 and 5.

For more photos, visit the university Facebook page photo album.



First Place:

* Aimee Miller and Fred Pasquarella, Psychology
“Give Me a Clue: A Curious Study Faculty”
Mentor: Steven Frieze, Psychology

2nd Place:

Jasmine McElroy, Anthropology
“Observations and Perceptions of Waste Management in CSUDH University Housing”
Faculty Mentor: Ana Pitchon, Anthropology



First Place:

Ludivina Vasquez, Psychology
“I Can’t Help Falling in Love… With Me: The Effect of Narcissism Upon Facebook-induced Anxiety”
Faculty Mentor: Larry Rosen, Psychology


Second Place:

Kelly Whaling, Psychology
“To Sleep Perchance to Dream… About Facebook: The Mechanisms of Media Use and Disordered Sleep”
Faculty Mentor: Larry Rosen, Psychology



First Place:

* Kristie Gordon, Sociology
“Alcohol Use, Sexual Risk, and HIV: Sexual Exploration Among Black and Latino Young Men Who Have Sex with Men (YMSM)”
Faculty Mentor: Matt G. Mutchler, Sociology


Second Place:

David C. Turner III, Africana Studies
“Do they really care about us? Investigating Hypermasculinity, Violence, and Victimization within Student Teacher Relationships at an Urban High School”
Faculty Mentor: Maurice Keith Claybrook, Africana Studies



First Place:

Denesse Segura, Dolores Vernet, Istvan Kovanecz, and Nestor Gonzalez-Cadavid, Biology|
“Effects of Stem Cells and of a Putative Endocrine Disruptor on Protein Expression in Penile Corpora Cavernosa (PCC) Tissue and Cells”
Faculty Mentor: Katherine Bates, Biology


Second Place:

Cesar DeLeon and Alisha Coffey, Chemistry
“Probing the Molecular Interaction and Orientation Structure of Gramicidin Incorporated within a Supported Bilayer Lipid Membranes by Infrared Microscopy on Metallic Microarray Meshes”
Faculty Mentor: Kenneth Rodriguez, Chemistry/Biochemistry



First Place:

Bree Nguyen, Accounting and Finance
“Venture Capital Growth in Southern California: Becoming Silicon Valley”ß
Faculty Mentor: Tayyeb Shabbir, Accounting and Finance


Second Place:

Giovanna Tavera, Psychology
“California State Prison Overcrowding: Reducing Prison Population without Jeopardizing Public Safety”
Faculty Mentor: Theodore Byrne, Criminal Justice Administration



First Place:

* Yves Hepperle, Information Systems and Operations Management
“Impact of Functional Users on Information System Development”
Faculty Mentor: Myron Sheu, Information Systems and Operations Management


Second Place:

Jesse Navas, Jr. and Bolan Kolev, Computer Science
“Simulated Disaster Scenario: A Multi-Agent Simulation”
Faculty Mentor: Antonia Boadi, Computer Science



First Place:

* Myeshia Horton and Danayia Stedham, Digital Media Arts
“Spray, Tuck, Zip” Television PSA
Faculty Mentor: George Vinovich, Digital Media Arts


Second Place:

Bernice Bernardo, Digital Media Arts
“PFLAG” Television PSA
Faculty Mentor: George Vinovich, Digital Media Arts


CREATIVE ARTS (afternoon)

First Place:

* Johnathan Lim and Natalie Cueva, Digital Media Arts
“Red Cross Blood Donation” Television PSA
Faculty Mentor: George Vinovich, Digital Media Arts


Second Place:

* Kellan King, Art & Design
“Cornus Melaleucanus”
Faculty Mentor: Jim Keville, Art & Design



First Place:

* Andrea Han, Allison Jen Kin and Stephanie Joyce, Occupational Therapy
“Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Their Romantic Relationships”
Faculty Mentor: Claudia Peyton, Occupational Therapy


Second Place:

* Linda Cohen, Kirsten Allevi, Junette Castillo and Sharon Elias, Occupational Therapy
“Time Use of Elderly Residents in Board and Care Homes”
Faculty Mentor: Claudia Peyton, Occupational Therapy



First Place:

Pam Nguyen, Lizel Grace Ongchangco and Marianne Lacoste, Occupational Therapy
“Transitional Narratives of Adults with Asperger’s Syndrome: A Qualitative Study”
Faculty Mentor: Claudia Peyton, Occupational Therapy


Second Place:

Leslie Walker, Miriam Wasserman and Jessica Raimondo, Occupational Therapy
“Perceptions of Disabled Adults about the Value of Animal-Assisted Therapy”
Faculty Mentor: Claudia Peyton, Occupational Therapy



First Place:

Alexander Funk, Clinical Science
“Comparison of Current Correction-Determining Methods with Rosner and Devreese Methods in Coagulation Mixing Studies”
Faculty Mentor: Cheryl Jackson-Harris, Clinical Science


Second Place:

Jenese Girgis and Jenna Alarcon, Health Science
“How Important is School and Family in Protecting Italian Adolescents from Marijuana Use?”
Faculty Mentor: Enrique Ortega, Health Science



First Place:

* Nancy Buenrostro, History
“The Visible Hoodlum Vs The Invisible Soldier”
Faculty Mentor: Ericka Verba, History


Second Place:

Rafael Martinez, History
“Shades of Black and Brown: Allied Activism During the Civil Rights Movement in Los Angeles”
Faculty Mentor: Ericka Verba, History



First Place:

Alejandro Rubio, English
“There Isn’t a Literal Connection, Dude”
Faculty Mentor: Roderick Hernandez, English


Second Place:

Jessica Portillo, Art & Design
“An Overview of the Life and Work of Cambodian Artist You Khin”
Faculty Mentor: James Scarborough, PICTURE Cultural Art



First Place:

* Alec Thompson, Physics
“Studying the Λp Interaction with CLAS”
Faculty Mentor: John Price, Physics


Second Place:

Peter Halcrow, Biology
“Non-Contact Ultrasound Imaging Applied to Cortical Bone Phantoms”
Faculty Mentors: John Bulman (LMU) and Kenneth Ganezer, Physics


POSTERS (morning)

First Place:

Mahyar Kohanbash and Parham Zamani, Biology
“Optimization of Recombinant AFP Expression in the E. Coli System”
Faculty Mentor: Tilly Wang, Chemistry


Second Place:

Fred Pasquarella, Psychology
“Predicting Suicidal Tendencies Among the Youth”
Faculty Mentor: Steven Frieze, Psychology


POSTERS (afternoon)

First Place (tie):

Diego Garcia, Psychology
“Does Paying More for Your Child Mean Better Care? A Look at the Health Habits and Cost of Childcare Centers in SPA 6 of Los Angeles County”
Faculty Mentor: L. Mark Carrier, Psychology

Jessica Williams, Alexx Salazar, and Marko Germono, Anthropology
“Assessing Attitudes and Perceptions of Sustainable Seafood Among Purchasers in Los Angeles California”
Faculty Mentor: Ana Pitchon, Anthropology


A full list of abstract submissions can be found on the Student Research Day at: A full list of oral presentation and poster abstracts are on the CSU Student Research Day web site, and small PDF copies of the posters can be emailed to those who are interested in receiving a copy electronically.

The Seventh Annual CSU Dominguez Hills Student Research Day was sponsored in part by Associated Students, Inc., Allergan, Black Faculty and Staff Association, Vanessa Black, George Marsh Applied Cognition Laboratory, Louis M. Carrier, Jr., International Honor Society in Psychology, Brad and Paula Moore, Office of the Provost, Office of Research and Funded Projects, Schools Federal Credit Union, Shell Oil Company, University Catering/Pepsi, University Library, and Ludivina Vasquez.


  1. Clarice Nakamura says:

    I enjoyed reading about the student and faculty research going on at CSUDH. It’s wonderful to know about all that’s going on at the university and how relevant the topics are!

    I have daughter who is a high school freshman a Palos Verdes Peninsula High School and is interested in doing behavioral science research. Se is an active member of the iGeneration and is eager to contribute to research on multitasking and using technology to socialize.

    I have 2 questions:
    1) is it possible for her to be mentored in doing research in the above topics, and
    2) when is the next Student Research Day?

    I’d appreciate any info you can pass on.

    Clarice Nakamura

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