Unity College undergraduates who discovered microplastics in a local lake, assessed a town’s capacity to produce solar power, and other findings presented their work during the college’s annual research expo Monday.

The Unity College Student Conference, held May 9 at the Unity College Center for the Performing Arts, is the college’s signature forum for undergraduate students to exhibit research projects and to compete for excellence awards in a wide area of academic disciplines.

Students offer research findings in environmental sciences and the liberal arts, including original artwork such as painting, sculpture, and digital and mixed media. All works are judged by college faculty, staff, and community partners. More than 80 students offered presentations.

Goals of the Student Conference are to encourage, promote, and recognize all quality academic and professional work among Unity College students; to celebrate excellence; to help build a campus culture that values attention to detail and quality work; to provide a transitional experience into professional and academic communities; and to facilitate program evaluation and community building.

“This event shows graduate-level thinking in the sustainability sciences by undergraduate students,” Unity College President Dr. Melik Peter Khoury said, “exactly the kind of transdisciplinary training that has prepared these students to succeed as leaders in the environmental century.”

“I was blown away,” Khoury said. “Exhibitions demonstrated in-depth research, validation of data gathered in the field, and the importance of team building and coordination with stakeholders. Most projects had both fine detail and global scale, and I expect to see many adapted for masters theses and real-world implementation. This is also a true testament to our faculty and staff for going beyond traditional learning strategies,” Khoury said.

“It is awesome to see what students have done,” Chief Academic Officer Dr. Robert Scott, Jr. said. “The Unity College Student Conference awards ceremony is one of the signature programs of our unique brand of student-directed learning, a testament to the depth of a Unity College education, and one of my favorite events of the year.”

The college’s signature undergraduate research event was co-coordinated by Assistant Professor of Environmental Chemistry Dr. James Killarney, Center for Biodiversity Director Dr. Amy Arnett, and a host of other Student Conference Committee members.

The awards and winners are:

  • Unity Award to Morgan DuBois and Sally Carullo for their poster presentation, Identification and Quantification of Microplastics in Consumer Products. Award presented by Unity College President Dr. Melik Peter Khoury.
  • Award for Academic Excellence to Courtney Dotterweich for her presentation, Why did the black bear cross the road? Award presented by Chief Academic Officer Dr. Robert Scott, Jr.
  • Unity Partnership Award to Jennifer Meineke, Adrianna Bessenaire, Benjamin Collins, and Sean Monaghan for their presentation, Solar Suitability for Residential and Business Roofs in Unity, Maine. Award presented by Chief Fundraising Officer Erica Hutchinson.
  • The Conservation Award to Samantha McGarrigle for her presentation, Increasing Urbanization Correlated with Higher Avian Species Richness. Award presented by Center for Natural Resource Management and Protection Director Dr. Brent Bibles.
  • The Creativity Award to Jaden Reale for her presentation, Art and Mythology. Award presented by Center for Environmental Arts and Humanities Professor Ben Potter.
  • The Education Award to Renee Adlesperger for her presentation, The Issue of Lead and Wildlife: A Transdisciplinary Approach. Award presented by Dr. Jennifer Cartier of the Center for Experiential and Environmental Education.
  • The Research Award to Brett Skelly for his presentation, Calving Habitat Selection of Parturient Moose in Northern Maine. Award presented by Center for Biodiversity Director Dr. Amy Arnett.
  • The Sustainability Award to Michael Rossi for his presentation, Civic Engagement at Unity College. Award presented by Center for Sustainability and Global Change Professor Doug Fox.
  • The Environmental Professionals Award to Erin Kelly, Alana-Marie Pulkkinen, Alexander Fishkind, Allison Stevens, Benjamin Denoncour, Bethany Slack, Bridget Cameron, Devon Funt, Erin Kelly, Jenna Rippee, Jill Abramowitz, Joshua Reutzel, Megan Carroll, Monica Spatafore, Morgan White, Nicole Bilodeau, Rachel Ryzewicz, Robert Turner, Samantha Holt, Tanya Wilkerson, and Trina Wantman, for their Environmental Issues and Insights presentation. Award presented by Director of Career Services and Experiential Programs Nicole Collins.

For more information about the Student Conference, including faculty sponsorship, submission terms, format requirements, and past conference highlights, visit the student conference blog.

For more information about the Unity College Undergraduate Research Program, click here. For a list of past winners, visit the Unity College Student Conference blog here.

Photos of the Student Conference are on Flickr.

Monday, May 23, 2016