Meeting of the Minds

Undergraduate student research conference encourages inspiration and exchange of ideas

Undergraduate student research conference encourages inspiration and exchange of ideas

In the sciences, learning happens beyond the classroom and even beyond the lab or field. Insights and ideas often come from scientists sharing and discussing research findings.

For more than thirty years, Behrend has encouraged an exchange of in­sights among undergraduate students and faculty members through the Penn State Behrend Sigma Xi Undergraduate Research and Creative Accomplishment Conference.

The event, held annually in April, brings together undergraduate science students from across northwestern Pennsylvania to give oral or poster presentations on the research they have been conducting.

Sigma Xi is an international, multi­disciplinary scientific research honor society with more than 500 chapters in North America. Behrend works with the northwestern Pennsylvania chapter of the society to present the conference. Last year, nearly 150 undergraduate students from colleges and universities across the region presented their work, with eighty faculty members serving as judges.

In 2022, student research projects ranged from “Gender Differences in Anxi­ety Levels Following Covid-19 Isolation” to “Population Genetics of Spotted Salamanders” to “Examining Which Exoplanets are in Their Habitable Zone” to “Detection and Analysis of Nanoplastics in Presque Isle Bay.”

“Often the work they present is for a re­search class credit, but it does not have to be,” said Dr. Jay Amicangelo, a professor of chemistry at Behrend and current president of the local Sigma Xi chapter. “The specific projects they work on are most often done in conjunction with a faculty member and, therefore, often represent the overall interest of the faculty adviser, though that’s not always the case.”

Not only does the conference give sci­entists a chance to learn and be inspired by the work of one another, it also gives students the opportunity to develop their communication skills by presenting their research findings in a professional setting.

“They also get feedback on their project from other faculty members in their fields, which can be helpful if they are planning to continue the project in the future,” Amicangelo said. “And they can add it to their résumés as having partici­pated in a professional activity.”

This year’s conference is scheduled for Saturday, April 22, and it is open to the public. For more information, visit

Dr. Jay Amicangelo, professor of chemistry.

Dr. Jay Amicangelo, professor of chemistry.

Credit: Penn State Behrend

Dr. Jay Amicangelo, professor of chemistry and president of the Northwestern Pennsylvania chapter of Sigma Xi, an international scientific research honor society, recently accepted a Chapter Program of Excellence Award in recognition of the group’s work on the undergraduate research conference held annually at Behrend.