URI LSAMP Scholars Impress at Symposium

Tailynn McCarty presents her poster
Tailynn McCarty presents her poster at Northeastern.

By Neil Nachbar

Seven University of Rhode Island students participated in a symposium at Northeastern University on Oct. 27-28. The event was organized by the Northeast Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (NELSAMP) and the Massachusetts Consortium – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Program (MC-STEMP).

Besides URI, the NELSAMP Alliance is comprised of Northeastern, Tufts University, University of Connecticut, University of Massachusetts – Amherst and Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

URI College of Engineering students Renee Gordon, Dylan Kennedy, Tailynn McCarthy, Nathan Mensah, Ahmaad Randle, Melissa Santi and Merci Ujeneza were accompanied by College of Engineering Director of Diversity Chuck Watson.

The first day of the symposium featured an undergraduate research poster symposium/competition, dinner, a keynote speaker and a panel discussion by 12 NELSAMP students who attended an international REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) during the Summer of 2017 in China at Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

Approximately 85 students took part in the poster competition. In addition to the NELSAMP schools being represented, students from Clark Atlanta University and Hampton University also participated in the contest.

According to Richard Harris, Assistant Dean for Academic Scholarship, Mentoring & Outreach at Northeastern, a rubric was used by faculty, administrators and doctoral students to determine the top three posters. The criteria used by the judges included:

  • Poster layout and appearance
  • Presenters’ fluency with the work
  • Knowledge about the work presented
  • Answering questions from the audience

McCarthy, a chemical engineering student, who is also studying Italian in URI’s International Engineering Program (IEP), received the second place cash prize of $200 for her poster. The topic of her project was “development of mucus-penetrating nanocomposite micro particles for the treatment of Cystic Fibrosis related infections.”

“I was very surprised when they called my name for second place,” admitted McCarthy. “After speaking to some of the other presenters about their research and posters, I honestly didn’t think I had a chance. But when people asked me about my research, I felt confident in the knowledge that I had gained and was able to explain everything rather effortlessly.

“This experience taught me that it’s very important to have confidence in yourself and in your capabilities, because as it turned out, I was the only one who thought my poster wasn’t as good as the others,” said McCarthy, who is from Providence. “I am very grateful for the opportunity to do research and have the chance to present it.”

“Tailynn has been a significant asset to our research group since joining us in the summer of 2017,” said assistant professor Samantha Meenach, McCarthy’s faculty advisor on the project. “I was not surprised by her winning an award, as she is one of the brightest and most driven undergraduate researchers I have worked with. I’m very proud of her accomplishments.”

The students attending the symposium also selected the poster presentation they deemed to be the best, which was referred to as the People’s Choice award. Ujeneza won the People’s Choice award.

The second day of the symposium featured the GEM GRAD (Getting Ready for Advanced Degrees) Lab. The GRAD Lab consisted of daylong workshops dedicated to engage students in the process and the steps needed to apply to graduate school and to secure graduate school funding. These workshops included panelists who have secured a doctoral degree or are currently in a doctoral program.

A graduate school recruitment fair and an employer recruitment fair were also held on the second day.

Watson was impressed with how well the URI students represented the College at the two-day event.

“Our students did an outstanding job representing our College of Engineering diversity efforts, and I for one am very proud to wear the URI College of Engineering logo,” said Watson.