Annual undergraduate fellowship celebration joins forces with CELS career fair

Students, faculty, staff and alumni flooded the first floor of the Center for Biological and Life Sciences (CBLS) in December to attend the University of Rhode Island’s Annual Undergraduate Research Celebration. The initiative, a joint collaboration between the College of the Environment and Life Sciences (CELS) and the College of Engineering, gives students from diverse academic backgrounds an opportunity to showcase their recent research to friends, family, and potential employers.

Since 1996, the celebration has featured undergraduate research completed by Coastal and Environmental Fellows, and over the years has expanded to include research conducted by students in the Science and Engineering Fellows and Energy Fellows programs.

“Every year we try to grow this event to make the celebration even better for our students, attendees and the URI community,” says Sarah Moseley, Undergraduate Research and Experiential Learning coordinator for CELS. For the second year in a row the event was hosted in partnership with the Center for Career and Experiential Education. ”This year we hosted a CELS Career Fair on the same day as the celebration, which gave students the opportunity to network and connect with CELS alumni, along with employers in the science, environmental, and energy fields.” 

The celebration showcased the work of 56 undergraduate students from a diverse range of departments including Marine Affairs, Plant Science and Entomology, Natural Resources Science, and Biomedical Engineering. Several students’ work also featured research conducted in partnership with local organizations, such as the Rhode Island Efficient Buildings Fund and the South Kingstown Land Trust.

Cassidy Almon, a junior Environmental Science and Management major, received first place in the poster competition for her research on summer cover crops for Rhode Island vegetables. Working with her mentor, Dr. Rebecca Brown in the Plant Sciences and Entomology department, Almon studied seeding trials of cover crops like Japanese millet and mustard. These cover crops, sometimes called green manure, help soil productivity and suppress weeds and other pests that can make growing vegetables difficult. With a limited supply of farmland in Rhode Island, maintaining and protecting soil quality provides significant benefits for both business and future food security.

“The ability to speak clearly, accurately and concisely about scientific research is nearly as important as the research itself,” says Almon, who received a $400 scholarship in support of her research project. “People need to understand how the research can benefit their businesses and lives.”

Second place was awarded to Sara Datson, a senior in the Environmental Science and Management major, and a veteran of the annual fellowship celebration. Last year, Datson and her team received third place for their posters describing the foraging and nesting behaviors of the Eastern Carpenter Bee. This year, Datson presented a poster showcasing her own research project on the nest structure and pollen storage techniques of the native pollinator, which is among the largest bees in the Northeast.

“Presenting at the celebration allowed me to gain more experience in public speaking, which I always find to be beneficial for both my professional and academic careers,” says the Coastal and Environmental fellow, who had the opportunity to practice her public speaking skills in front of potential employers in attendance at the event. “It is undeniably a difficult skill that I will need to use in the future.”

Katelin Kuyoth, a senior Animal Science major in the pre-veterinary track, received third place for her research studying the effectiveness of using locally grown cranberry vines instead of chemical dewormers to prevent parasites in lambs. Working alongside her mentor, Dr. Katherine Petersson in the Fisheries, Animal and Veterinary Sciences department, Kuyoth learned that tannins, organic chemicals found naturally in plants, are proven to inhibit and decrease worm parasites in farm animals like goats and sheep.

“When my name was called I didn’t know what to say,” reflects Kuyoth, who hopes to one day fulfill her dream of becoming a veterinarian for farm animals. “Everyone did a wonderful job on their posters, and to have mine chosen 3rd out of 56 was unbelievable.”

The URI community looks forward to another year of innovative research and collaboration among diverse science programs between CELS and the College of Engineering. “It’s essential that our students gain as much experiential learning throughout their college career in order to be better candidates for reaching their future goals,” adds Moseley.