Cal U Forges Ahead with Annual Student Research Symposium

Apr 11, 2022

Behavioral scientist to deliver ‘Strike a Spark’ keynote on April 20.


Dr. Michael Dunbar, Pittsburgh-based behavioral scientist, will serve as keynote speaker at California University of Pennsylvania’s 7th annual “Strike a Spark” Conference on Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity.

A daylong celebration of student scholarship and creative expression organized by the Center for Undergraduate Research, the event will feature both face-to-face and virtual presentations beginning at 9 a.m. April 20.

“We are excited to be able to return to an in-person event with offerings online for those who cannot be here with us on campus,” said Dr. Azadeh Block, director of the Center for Undergraduate Research. “Our students, faculty and staff have shown time and time again how they can persevere under complicated circumstances, and I know we are all eager to see the showcase of talent at this year’s event.”

In-person events will be held at Cal U’s Convocation Center,.

Throughout the day, students will present scholarly and creative works from across the academic spectrum. Essays and featured speakers will highlight this year’s forward-thinking theme, “Forge the Future.”

“Research and creative expression are the essence of our ability to ‘forge the future,’” Block said. “’Strike a Spark’ is quintessential to the growth of our students, and the experience will serve them well as they take the next steps on their career paths.”

About Dr. Michael Dunbar

Dunbar is a scientific researcher at the RAND Corporation, where he examines the impact of situational factors and policy environments on patterns of health behaviors such as nicotine and tobacco use and health-service utilization.

His work employs a range of methodologies and study designs, including experimental research, semi-structured interviews, surveys and smartphone-based “experience sampling.”

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Dunbar holds a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, a Master of Science in Clinical Health Psychology and a Ph.D. in Clinical and Health Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh.

Schedule of events

9-10:40 a.m. Sessions

  • Digital storytelling: Hospitality Room
  • Creative arts exhibit I: Lobby
  • Poster session I: Lobby
  • Platform session I (HRSA): Rooms 6 & 7 (North Wing) and Computer Lab
  • Honors thesis presentations: Rooms 8 & 9 (North Wing)

10:45-10:50 a.m.

  • Remarks — Dr. Azadeh Block: South Wing

10:50-11 a.m.

  • Welcome — Dr. Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson, interim president: South Wing

11-11:20 a.m.

  • Performance — Theatre Department: South Wing. “On the EDGES: An exploration of anxiety, co-dependence, and the importance of connection”

11:20-11:50 a.m.

  • Keynote address — Michael Dunbar: South Wing. “Keeping up and moving forward: Using science to measure and make change outside of the lab”

11:50 a.m.-12:10 p.m.

  • Performance — English Department: South Wing

12:10-12:15 p.m.

  • Serene Leadership Institute Essay Contest winners announced: South Wing

12:15-1:30 p.m.

  • Lunch: Level 2 Concourse

1-2:40 p.m. Sessions

  • Digital storytelling: Hospitality Room (Hall to South Wing)
  • Creative arts exhibit II: Lobby
  • Poster session II: Lobby
  • Platform session II (HRSA): North Wing 6 & 7
  • Honors thesis presentations: North Wing 8 & 9

2:45-3:30 p.m.

  • Performing arts session: South Wing

3:30-3:35 p.m.

  • Closing remarks: South Wing

All “Strike a Spark” events are free and open to the public. For an up-to-date schedule, visit