April 17, 2024

Last year, second-year Master’s psychological sciences student Mary Fallon got her foot in the door and presented during University Research Day. She overcame early anxiousness and discovered a passion for sharing her insights with the world. 

A year later, she was named one of seven winners at the ninth annual, University-wide event, which featured hundreds of oral and poster presentations by students, faculty, and staff, live musical performances, and a film festival. Her Master’s poster research project, The Role of Emotion Regulation in Anxious Youth, was a collaboration with Professor Brendan Rich, who also served as an advisor. 

“Research Day is a great opportunity to showcase for the entire school, what you're interested in, what's important, and why,” Fallon said. “It's a testament to how much work Catholic students are putting in. And the future is bright. Everyone's doing amazing research for the future and great causes.”

As she shared her knowledge in The Pryzbyla Center’s Great Room, she was surrounded by hundreds of fellow students who were presenting or attending. Winners of the best poster in the undergrad category, Maria Erquiaga and Emma Wallace, shared insights into their work,
Electromechanical Properties of Distal Electrofabricated Chitosan Membrane crosslinked with Cu2+.

“This has been in the works for so long,” Wallace, a biomedical engineering major, said of the project. “[Erquiaga] put in countless hours for two years now. I've been on the project for about a year. And just seeing it finally all tied together is amazing.”

Erquiaga, a mechanical engineering major, plans to attend medical school next. She couldn't help but take in the presentations of her fellow students, adding, “I haven't had time to take  all the classes I wanted to here, but being able to see what everybody else is up to helps you integrate. It's cool.”

Mary Fallon enjoys a moment in front of her award-winning poster presentation. (Catholic University/Patrick G. Ryan)

Earlier in the day, the University set the tone with a series of welcome remarks from University leadership. 

President Peter Kilpatrick, a chemical engineer who owns or co-owns 12 patents and has published more than 100 journal articles, said University Research Day reflects the core of the school’s character.

“This is one of the most enjoyable and impressive days of the year here at The Catholic University of America,” President Kilpatrick said. “What makes a university, a university, rather than just a collection of people doing various things, is this rigorous pursuit of the truth.”

Chris Raub, Associate Professor and Chair of Engineering Christopher Raub, co-chaired this year’s organizing committee with Biochemistry Chair and Associate Professor Gregory Miller. Raub was wowed by the breadth of submissions from across the spectrum of schools on campus.

“What is unifying in all these works and scholarship.. is the idea that beauty comes through pursuit of truth,” said Chris Raub, associate professor and chair of the biomedical engineering department. “Some are timeless truths that are confirmed by a universal experience over the centuries. And others are truths that are being discovered.”

Research is at the heart of the University’s history. It was established as a papally chartered graduate and research center and opened as an institution of higher education in 1889.

Provost Aaron Dominguez called University Research his favorite of the year because of the various topics discussed. Currently, the University is considered a doctoral university (Research-2) by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education because of its “very high research activity” and is pursuing the highest level, R1. 

According to Dominguez, the classification will attract even more top-flight faculty, staff, and students, provide opportunities for leadership in mission-centric areas, and add additional revenue streams for grants, contracts, and commercialization of research, while providing a platform for local and national economic development. 

“Faith and reason of our research are connected through our Catholic mission,” Dominguez told the crowd gathered.

Keynote speaker Jeffrey Hermann, Professor and the St. Abbo of Fleury Chair in Engineering, presented on “metareasoning,” the ability to think about thinking. He delved into the impacts of AI and other technology and issues close to the University's collective heart. 

“What type of reasoning process should we use when we contemplate creation and think about God? This is the ultimate metareasoning problem,” Hermann said. “Because reasoning and faith work together, perhaps using metareasoning to improve one’s reasoning process can help one move closer to God.”

The following presentations received awards:

Best oral presentation, doctoral: Natalie Volpicelli, Psychology

Best oral presentation, masters: Sr. Theresa Joseph Nguyen, Biblical Studies (TRS)

Best oral presentation, undergraduates:

Sean Farrelly, Nathan Ford, Maria Hargrave, Louis Nwuha, Abigail Post, Daniel Zhao, Biomedical Engineering

Best poster, doctoral: Uwe Klemm, Nursing

Best poster, masters: Mary Fallon, Psychology

Best poster, undergraduate: Maria Erquiaga (Mechanical Engineering), Emma Wallace (Biomedical Engineering)