Students Showcase Creative Work

Nov 16, 2021

In-person and virtual presentations at annual Creative Works event highlight scholarship.

student demonstrates to professor

John Barnes (left), who seeks a career in osteopathic medicine, presents his research to Dr. Mark Tebbitt, professor of biology and Creative Works organizer.

Confidently and proudly, seniors Makenzie Cree and Sarah Moehring explained their research to the Cal U community on Tuesday as part of the annual fall Creative Works and Research event.

Their work, “The Effects of Alprazolam on Wound Healing and Regeneration in Planaria” seemed complex, but they skillfully simplified.

“It’s like Xanax,” Cree said of the generic alprazolam. “We used planaria (a type of flatworm) because it works on the same receptors as humans.”

Their conclusion — that the drug, when ingested by planaria, does seem to slow down healing and regeneration — tracks with other current research on burn victims.

Dr. Louise Nicholson, an associate professor of biology, advised Cree and Moehring on the project.

“We’re proud of our research,” said the two biology pre-med majors, who started the project a year ago and plan to present again in the spring at the annual Strike a Spark Conference on Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity. 

“It’s relevant to our careers, and it’s a good experience to be able to take something you learned about and explain it to someone else.”

At the Convocation Center, students — individually or as part of a team — presented 10 posters for Creative Works, sponsored by Cal U’s Center for Undergraduate Research.  In addition, more than 30 students presented their posters virtually. (View the virtual presentations.) Each student project had a faculty adviser.

Some students elected to have their presentations judged, while others did not, but all of them benefited from the experience, according to Dr. Mark Tebbitt, a biology professor who organizes Creative Works each fall.

“It’s a good experience for students to interact with each other and with professors,” Tebbitt said. “We try to mimic an actual academic conference; it’s a practice run for the real thing.”

Dr. Azadeh Block, associate professor of social work, directs the Center for Undergraduate Research.

“Interdisciplinary events like this are how you build a campus community,” she said. “And these types of events can inch students one way or the other in terms of their career choices.”

“The students are stellar,” said Dr. Mathilda Spencer, who teaches criminal justice and helped to judge the presentations. “Some of these topics are so far afield from what I do. You’re used to being in your own silo, and it’s great to see all the wonderful things our students are up to.”