Symposium for the Promotion of Academic and Creative Enquiry

A Celebration of Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavors

University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown



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Sample Abstracts

Projects in Education:
Projects in Engineering:
Projects in the Humanities:
Projects in the Natural Sciences:
Projects in the Social Sciences:

Projects in Education:

The Success of Supplemental Instruction in the General Chemistry Classroom

Nathaniel Grove
(Senior, Chemistry & Secondary Education)
  Supervising Faculty Mentor:
Susan Dawkins
    Learning Resource Center

For the past three years, Supplemental Instruction (SI) has been used in the General Chemistry I classroom at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown (UPJ).  Unlike more traditional tutoring techniques, a trained SI leader attends all classes, meets with the instructor on a weekly basis, and finally offers several group tutoring opportunities for the students in the class each week.  Since its inception, there has been a question about the effectiveness of the program.  Looking at the data we have collected, we have concluded that the program is effective.  This is based upon three factors: (1) Student input; (2) High student participation; and (3) Higher course QPA for students who attend.

Projects in Engineering:

Preliminary Design of the Carpenters Park Bridge

Sondra J. Carolus (Senior, Civil Engineering Technology)   Supervising Faculty Mentor:
James MacIntyre
Brian W. Laub (Senior, Civil Engineering Technology)   Civil Engineering Technology
Robert E. Pitassi (Senior, Civil Engineering Technology)    
Andrew T. Wingard (Senior, Civil Engineering Technology)    

The purpose of this project is to present a preliminary design of the Carpenters Park Bridge located in Paint Township, Somerset County, Pennsylvania.  This project encompasses an inspection of the existing bridge, topographic survey, traffic study, hydraulic and hydraulic study, soil study, preliminary design in accordance with a TS&L study, structural drawings, and a cost estimate.  If this preliminary design would be constructed, it would allow for safer, more efficient travel along state route 4022 over the Stony Creek River. 

Projects in the Humanities:

Creative Writers Read Their Work

Ryan Dempsey(Junior, Creative Writing)   Supervising Faculty Mentor:
Dr. Eric Schwerer
Sarah Factor (Senior, Political Science)   English Writing
Kelly Geier(Junior, Communications)    
Brooke Greenbank(Senior, Creative Writing)    
Katelyn McKeon(Junior, Writing)    
George WileyJunior, English)    

Six UPJ students will read from their creative work.  The creative work to be read will cover a variety of genres, including poetry, short fiction, prose poems, sudden fiction, and personal essays.  Student presenters have worked one-on-one with English Writing faculty and/or taken English Writing courses. 

Projects in the Natural Sciences:

Conversion Of Optically Active Acid-Esters To Ester-Acid Chlorides Without Loss Of Optical Activity

Sean Purdy (Senior, Chemistry)   Supervising Faculty Mentor:
Dr. George B. Trimitsis
Stephen Flowers (Junior, Biology)   Chemistry
Mason Marsh (Senior, Chemistry)    
Brenda Benfield (Junior, Biology)    

It has been reported in the literature that attempts to convert optically active acid-esters to their corresponding ester-acid chlorides by standard procedures is often accompanied by loss of optical activity. The purpose of the present investigation was to develop a suitable experimental procedure for the conversion of methyl (R)-3-methyl glutarate (1) to the corresponding ester-acid 2 with preservation of optical purity. A number of suitable reagents and reaction conditions for accomplishing this goal will be discussed. The present investigation also sought to develop an accurate and convenient assay for determining the enantiomeric excess of compounds 1 and 2. Although 1NMR can be used for this purpose, it was found that GC-MS offers a number of distinct advantages. A comparison of the two analytical procedures will be presented. 

Petrology And Petrogenesis Of Diabase Drill Core In Bucks County, Pennsylvania

Scott W. Poborsky (Senior, Geology)   Supervising Faculty Mentor:
Dr. William R. Brice
Craig M. Thomas (Senior, Geology)   Geology

A 58 meter Triassic age diabase drill core was obtained from the U. S. Geological Survey Boarhead Farms Superfund Site. The Pennsylvania diabase intruded into the Triassic basin which extends from Canada to South Carolina along the eastern edge of North America. The core is composed entirely of phaneritic, medium grained troctolitic norite with several faulted areas due to post-crystallization stresses. The core is composed mainly of pyroxene, calcium rich plagioclase, and olivine with accessories that include biotite and iron oxides. The origin of the intrusion is due to the breakup of the supercontinent Pangea. Differentiation processes such as crystal settling, and Bowen’s Reaction Series are all involved in the petrogenesis of the diabase sheet.

Projects in the Social Sciences:

Constitutional Tests for Obscenity:  Scrutiny of their Case History and Functionality

Douglas Bench (Senior, Political Science & Journalism)   Supervising Faculty Mentor:
 Dr. James R. Alexander
    Political Science

This paper examines the history of the three principal obscenity tests used in American law and assesses the value of each test, including background information on the legal evolution of the concept of obscenity. Through an examination of the case history, the paper reaches the conclusion that the Hicklin test, drawn from English common law and established as the principal standard for obscenity in American law in the late-19th century, is best suited for resolution of contemporary legal issues regarding the protection of free expression values in the vaguely-defined “community” created by the Internet.

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Sponsored by a Promotion of Excellence Grant

awarded to the UPJ Chapter of Phi Kappa Phi