Meeting of the Minds in the ACC
In a year of first-time matchups for Syracuse University as a new member of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Stephen DeSalvo ’14 and Kelsey Monteith ’14 brought their game to another ACC first.
The two seniors represented Syracuse at the 2014 ACC Meeting of the Minds conference in Pittsburgh in April. The three-day conference brings together top undergraduate students from ACC schools to present their research projects.
The best part of the conference for DeSalvo, a chemical engineering major, was networking with other researchers, and learning about the range of problems that still need to be solved.
“It was motivational in many respects to meet so many intelligent, driven students in one place who are at the same time collegial and supportive,” DeSalvo says.
DeSalvo’s presentation involved research with Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering Radhakrishna Sureshkumar, using simulations to explore bacterial biofilms, a major cause of persistent infections and diseases with known antibiotic and host immune defense resistances.
Monteith, a biochemistry major, has worked with Michael Cosgrove at Upstate Medical University since 2011. Her research examined proteins related to leukemia, which could lead to innovative strategies to manipulate gene expression patterns in leukemic cells.
Monteith also appreciated the variety of research being done by students, both in and out of the sciences.
“I saw presentations on New Orleans history and cultural divides, the economic divide between national basketball players by race, and even biochemistry research directly related to what my research pertains to,” Monteith says.
The trip to the conference was sponsored by the Inter-institutional Academic Collaborative of the ACC (ACCIAC), whose funding comes from a portion of the income generated by the ACC Football Championship Game, and was administered through the University’s Office of the Associate Provost for Academic Programs. The students were accompanied to the conference by Kate Hanson, assistant director of scholarship and fellowship preparation in the Renée Crown University Honors Program and co-director of the Center for Fellowship and Scholarship Advising (CFSA).
“It was a phenomenal experience, and Kelsey and Stephen did a fantastic job representing Syracuse University,” Hanson says.
Students and faculty were welcomed at the University of Pittsburgh with a variety of events, including keynote presentations by art history and neuroscience faculty and a visit to the Andy Warhol museum.
Syracuse University will host the event in 2016.
Monteith encourages others involved in any research to pursue participating in the yearly conference. “It was well-organized and motivating,” she says. “The other students asked very insightful questions that really pushed the speaker positively.”
Monteith’s entire experience was valuable in many ways, including learning how to present her structural biochemistry research project to a non-science audience—while also recognizing that people in the field might be listening.
“At the conference, it was interesting to see the types of questions the non-science and science audience would ask, so it was a wonderful experience to learn how to approach the presentation and address the differing kinds of questions it would promote,” she says.
Monteith will take those skills with her when she attends medical school this fall at the University at Buffalo, School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, where she plans to continue to participate in biochemistry research.
DeSalvo, who plans to attend the University of Pennsylvania Law School in the fall to study intellectual property law, took away from his research that “persistence and perseverance are essential.”
“Although the process of getting results is laborious, and you certainly do not always get what you expect, it is rewarding to produce something of value on your own,” DeSalvo says.
Undergraduate students interested in participating in the 2015 ACC Meeting of the Minds Conference should contact Judy O’Rourke, co-director of CFSA, at email@example.com. All students actively engaged in research are eligible to apply.