CURC 2021 award winners announced

CURC 2021

When Colorado State University pivoted to remote teaching and learning in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the first events challenged to make the same pivot was the annual Celebrate Undergraduate Research and Creativity poster session and presentations. More than 300 students from across all eight colleges at CSU were hard at work preparing to submit their entries to faculty judges in April, and organizers were determined that the show would go on.

They hit on the idea of using the iPoster platform to share CURC with the CSU community virtually. Not only was it a great success, but other research-related events – including MURALS, GradShow and CSU Ventures’ Demo Day – adopted a similar platform to keep going during the pandemic.

Fast forward to April 2021. Although the University has announced plans to return to in-person instruction for Fall semester, students finished out Spring remotely, and CURC remained a virtual experience. But that didn’t dim the enthusiasm among undergraduates — faculty judges had nearly the same number of entries to review — and with a year of experience working in the online environment, organizers say they will be incorporating virtual elements into the event even when it takes place in the real world.

“CURC 2021 allowed us to use a variety of virtual functions to help students share their creative work with campus and beyond,” said Louise Allen, director of the Office for Undergraduate Research and Artistry. “Going forward, I have no doubt we will maintain a more robust online presence for the events so that we can continue to reach a broader audience.”

To experience CURC in real time, virtual attendees could click on a poster, including audio narration from the student researcher, and contact the researcher to ask questions and provide feedback.

“I am incredibly proud of the CURC organizing team who planned and pulled off a complex, multi-day online event,” Allen added.  “I am also impressed by the over 200 student participants. This year has not been an easy one, yet so many rose to the challenge – crafting and presenting work of exceptional quality.”

As successful as the online CURC has been, there’s a different kind of energy involved in face-to-face interaction between presenters and attendees.

“I still remember the excitement of CURC – dressing up, printing out the poster, performing one last practice round – from four years ago when I presented,” said Raj Trikha, CURC graduate student coordinator. “I was glad to play a small role in showcasing all the incredible research and arts done at the University.”

Both the posters and oral presentations will be accessible on the iPoster site for the foreseeable future. The platform allows attendees to sort posters by college as well as major and the poster gallery includes a search function to find winners by award type.

CURC 2021 awards

Research Best in Show

Annie Campaign, Food Science and Human Nutrition, Genna Campain, research assistant: An evaluation to inform eating disorder prevention efforts targeting CSU students.
Noelle Mason, Biology:  Improving the Efficiency of DNA extractions for Avian Climate Change Research

Research Highest Honors

Brynn Lauterbach, Microbiology: Glial-neuronal signaling mechanisms underlying the neuroinflammatory effects of prion disease
Colton Castro, Biomedical Sciences: Cerebral blood flow correlates of psychosis symptoms
Jaylin Mandley, Neuroscience: DNA replication strategies of hyperthermophilic archaeon thermococcus kodakarensis
Katherine Chism, Chemistry: Initiator efficiency and catalytic properties of substituted dihydrophenazines in organocatalyzed atom transfer radical polymerization
Kathryn Long, Biochemistry: An inducible repressor system for the thermophilic archaeon thermococcus kodakarensis
Kristin Hinsen, Biomedical Sciences: Nitric oxide: A potential adjuvant anticancer therapeutic for neuroblastoma
Mary Stischer, Neuroscience: A novel glucocorticoid receptor antagonist attenuates NF-kB-mediated inflammation in primary cultured astrocytes
Mohammad Ramadan, Biochemistry: Synthesis and stability exploration of vanadium-containing polyoxometalate
Rebecca Rugg, Ecosystem Science and Sustainability: Wolf reintroduction in Colorado: Impacts of an educational webinar on participant perceptions and attitudes

Research High Honors

Gabriele Brown, Biomedical Sciences: Cardiometabolic effects of microbiota transplantation from dysbiotic microbiota into germ-free mice
Meghan Jackson, Design and Merchandising; Dan Rehberg, Computer Science; William Schmitz, Art; Crispin Haro, Computer Science: Designing augmented reality technology for enhancing building design strategies
Paul O’Toole, Microbiology: Characterization of CdrA transposon mutants
Abigail Fennell, Biomedical and Chemical and Biological Engineering: Characterization of the microbiome associated with Culicoides sonorensis
Carson Green, Electrical Engineering: Analysis of lubricants used for natural gas conmpressors at high temperatures and pressures
Darcy Hunstiger, Biological Science: Engineering a model cyanobacterium to renewably produce isobutyraldehyde, a biofuel precursor
Evan Mathias, Health and Exercise Science: Using virtual time-to-contact to identify balance differences between healthy adults and college athletes

Service Learning

1st place – Maya Siegel,  Business Administration: Space to Speak, giving youth a leading voice in the sexual violence prevention movement
2nd place – Kaydee Barker, Ecosystem Science & Sustainability: Design and collaborative implementation of a pollinator habitat on a Colorado Front Range farm
3rd  place – Fernanda Alarcon-Avila, Psychology, Lauryn Howlett, Ecosystem Science and Sustainability: Mental health support for undocumented students

Writing: Creative Fiction

Brianna Tangree, Political Science: Wedding Album

Writing: Nonfiction

Sydney Alderfer, Chemical and Biological Engineering: A diabetic retinopathy model for the automated detection of eye disease in astronaut retinal images


1st place – Sohyun (Jay) Lee, Art: Flower on Fire
2nd place – Madelyn Hendricks, Biology: The Face of Entertainment and the Gradient Connection of Cartooning
3rd place – Marguerite Hughbanks, Art: “dYsLeXiA”

Oral Presentation

1st – tied – Amanda Kowalski, Anthropology & Geography: Influence of wildfire management on burn mosaic heterogeneity and post-fire regeneration in Colorado spruce-fir forests.
Shelby Smith, Neuroscience: Heavy metals sensitize microglia to the neuroinflammatory effects of bacterial endotoxin through activation of nuclear factor kappa B

2nd – tied – Devin Aldaz, Microbiology
Mary Stischer, Neuroscience

Energy Institute

1st – tied – Paula Mendoza Moreno,  Chemical Engineering: Economic and environmental sustainability assessment of conversion pathways for guayule bagasse into biofuels
Cody Sanford, Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, Megan Pierson, Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, CSU’s nitrogen footprint and potential reduction strategy

3rd – Emily Luetschwager, Statistics: An investigation of pipeline factors affecting natural gas leak detection with mobile methane surveys

Graduate School

Leah Young, Human Development and Family Studies: Death: Helping young children of color understand what the end of life means
Leo Andrade, Apparel and Merchandising: Branching Out


Agricultural Sciences

Christopher Hayes, Agricultural Biology: Small pest, big problem: Innovative strategies to manage hemp russet mite in hemp.
Tierra Matthews, Animal Science: Virome analysis of wheat: Discovery of novel virus variants and mycoviruses


Nathan Akers, Business Administration: Remote work observations and action plan

Health and Human Sciences

Andrea Shammas, Health and Exercise Science: Intraindividual motor variability and its impact on braking time in stroke

Liberal Arts

Jared Grove, Anthropology: Is climate change resulting in wildfires burning areas that normally don’t burn?

Natural Sciences

Matthew Yohannes, Neuroscience: Vanadium – Will this element protect your brain?
Izabella Mastroianni, Biochemistry: Exploring the negative feedback loop regulation of ELT-2 in C. elegans
Kathleen Floyd, Chemistry: Characterization of water dynamics in Solid Alkane Reverse Micelles (SARMs) by solid state NMR

Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

Katelynn Kroeker, Biomedical Sciences: Immune response to novel intranasal mucosal immune stimulant in mice
Madison Russell, Microbiology: Examining the rationale for fuel-device stacking: A scoping review
Rhodry Brown, Microbiology: Synthesizing novel antimicrobial enzymes for use against common bacterial infections

Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering

Courtney Doherty, Mechanical Engineering: Effects of microstructure on polymeric scaffold mechanical properties
Ethan Green, Chemical Engineering: Should I stay or should I go? Controlling the retention of a transgenic genetic element
Sydney Alderfer, Chemical Engineering: Analysis of cell and nuclear morphology provides insights about cofilin activity in triple negative breast cancer cells

Warner College of Natural Resources

Mitchell Giebler, Restoration Ecology: Development of a real-time PCR assay for the detection of Erwinia aphidicola, a recently reported pathogen in the United States
Kelley Sinning, Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology: The interaction of wildfires and beaver dams on aquatic insect communities