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News Release

Students to Present Undergraduate Research at the State Capital

Bethlehem, Pa., October 1, 2007— Four Moravian College students will participate in the “Undergraduate Research at the Capitol” day on Tuesday, October 2 in the State Capitol Building of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The students will present posters on undergraduate research they have conducted at Moravian College.

Chemistry major Lisa Morkowchuk’08, Germansville, Pa., will offer a poster on her project, “Computational Study of the Counterion and Solvent Effect on Stereoselectivity in SN2 Reactions of Cyclic Nitrile Anions.” Biology major Anastasia K. Yemelyanova, ’08, Bethlehem, Pa. will display her research on the “Transformation of Drosophila with Mutated Presenilin to Create "Alzheimer" Flies” Biology majors Brian Birchak ’08, Tunnersville, N.J.,  and  Armando (Andy) Villafane ’07, Bethlehm, Pa. will introduce a poster on their research titled, Remediation Effects on Forest Soil Microflora and Aquatic Macroinvertebrate Communities Affected by Zinc Smelter Emissions near Palmerton, Pennsylvania.”

Birchak and Villafane conducted their research at the former site of ore smelting operations by the New Jersey Zinc Company, the biggest Superfund clean-up site east of the Mississippi.  Now owned and managed by the Lehigh Gap Nature Center (LGNC), the site has provided opportunities for Moravian College students to perform meaningful scientific research and to gain valuable field experience. Working with Frank Kuserk, professor of biology at Moravian College, Birchak, surveyed and identified aquatic macroinvertebrates from pond and stream water in the Gap area. Villafane, who also worked with professor Kuserk, examined soil microorganisms. By consulting with a researcher who conducted a similar survey in 1973 (a few years after the smelting operations ceased), Villafane was able to take samples from the same sites for comparison. The increase in microbe numbers that he documented is another encouraging sign of the Gap's comeback.

The purpose of Undergraduate Research at the Capitol is to bring together college students, faculty, and Pennsylvania legislators to share the experiences of students engaged in research or scholarship at their colleges and universities.  To that end, URC-PA provides an opportunity for students to present posters about their work at the State Capitol, and for students and their faculty mentors to meet with legislators and their staffs.

During the day-long program students will begin with an Etiquette and Current Issues Briefing session presented by Jeanne Schmedlen,  chief of protocol/director of special projects, House Speaker’s Office (Dennis M. O’Brien).  Students will discuss their research with legislators and others during the poster session from 9 to 10:45 a.m. in the East Wing Rotunda and Atrium. A student recognition ceremony will be held in House Chamber at 11 a.m. in the 2nd Floor House Chamber – Main Capitol. In the afternoon, Dr. Michael King, Executive Director, Legislative Office for Research Liaison (LORL), Pennsylvania House of Representatives will conduct a presentation on the legislative process.  Students will then embark on pre-arranged meetings with legislators from the College/University District and Home Legislative Districts.

Carl Salter, professor of chemistry at Moravian College, led an organizing committee which planned the event.  The group is comprised of representatives from Penn State Hazelton, Widener University, Cabrini College, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Westminster College. Dickinson College, Carnegie Mellon University, and Susquehanna University. Salter, who is also the director of Student Opportunities for Academic Research Program (SOAR) at Moravian College, will accompany the students on their trip to the state capital in Harrisburg, Pa.

SOAR (Student Opportunities for Academic Research) provides stipends, travel allowances, and expenses for students engaged in research or creative activities through close interaction with a faculty mentor. The program helps Moravian students gain a better understanding of scholarships in their disciplines, and fosters scholar-colleague relationships.

Moravian College is a private, coeducational, selective liberal arts college located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Tracing its founding to 1742, it is recognized as America's sixth-oldest college. Visit the Web site at www.moravian.edu.