Summer Research Scholars Showcase: From Irish Dancing to App Design

Students looking at summer research project posters. BROOKE DELLAROCCO/THE QUADRANGLE

By Brooke DellaRocco, Staff Writer

Manhattan College Summer Research Scholar Students gathered in Kelly Commons to discuss their research and celebrate their discoveries on a variety of topics.

Over the summer, a selective group of students were chosen to move forward with research proposals. Following months of research, each student put together a visual and oral representation on their findings and why they matter. 

The ceremony started off with an address from Gerarda M. Shields, Ph.D., the dean of the School of Technology & Design at New York City College of Technology. Having had many mentors herself over the years, she felt the need to share some advice one mentor had once given her.

“He’d said, ‘When you’re thinking about research, think about how your work creates actionable science’,” Shields said. “Because it’s not just about putting out research for research’s sake; putting out a book so that it can sit on a shelf and say, ‘I did that. I did that research’. The work of a scholar is to have a positive impact on society.”

Not only did she leave advice for students, but she also gave much praise for the work they had completed over the summer. With a room full of mostly undergraduate research scholars, she urged them to continue researching and learning.

“Studies have found that students benefit from research experiences and that promotes an increased persistence in their degree, and for graduate study,” Shields said. “…In particular, undergraduate research has shown to be particularly effective at increasing retention amongst [students] and the career pathways for those who are typically not represented in their industry.”

There was a broad range of research topics originating from all departments of MC. Mimi Lopez, a junior at MC, studied the influence of social and emotional teaching practices in schools today. She was able to talk to three winners of the State Teacher of the Year award and was able to gather data from them to support her findings. “Relationship and community building, self-management/coping strategies and reflection” were the three main practices that Lopez discovered as an integral part of learning, as stated on her poster.

“I’m hoping that with all of this information, this will help teachers be better educators,” Lopez said. “And so Manhattan College’s education program will know how to integrate social-emotional learning into their teaching.”

Emily Grace, an Irish step dancer, took a different approach to her research project as she delved deeper into lower extremity injuries in Irish dancing. As a part of the dance community, she felt very underrepresented in injury studies and wanted to conduct some research of her own.

“I’m a dancer,” Grace said. “I’ve been dancing since I was six. So it kind of hits home because I’m also in exercise science, so we talk a lot about injuries….but it’s always related to basketball and soccer.”

Because she connects so many things in her life to dance and still competes as an Irish step dancer today, she took an immediate interest in this topic. 

“The thing with Irish dancing is when you push off and land from all jumps, your heel can’t hit the floor, so it’s really unnatural for the human body,” Grace said. “Because of that, it’s sending a shock up your ankle, knee and lower extremities.”

Her main findings detected that the top five injuries found in Irish step dancers were “Sesamoiditis/sesamoid fractures, 5th metatarsal fractures, torn tendons/ligaments, tendonitis in feet/hips and stress fractures”, as stated in her presentation. 

Jack Griffin, a senior, focused his research on the development of an “Inexpensive Mobile App for PT INR Measurement”. PT INR is essentially how fast or how slow your blood clots, and Griffin’s purpose was to make the process of getting this tested a lot quicker for patients. Oftentimes, people on medications, such as warfarin, need to take these tests weekly or biweekly, and people in the emergency room might need to be tested hourly. 

“These devices are pretty expensive and it might not be able to be readily available in low resource environments such as rural clinics or countries where this stuff might not be available,” Griffin said. “What this app plans to do is to be able to be a stand-in for that point of care device.” 

With a well-developed design, Griffin managed to measure and test blood samples and insert this information into a simple math equation to produce results in about a minute and a half. He is still working on it to make it the most efficient product it can be. 

This topic strikes close to home with Griffin, which is why he decided to take on this challenge.

“My late grandfather was on a lot of blood thinning medications before he passed from COVID two years ago,” Griffin said. “I always want to try and think about how I can help people with my project and what I do. So this is something that me and my mom actually thought of, something that I can actually do and it would be able to help them eventually.”

The level of research that was celebrated was immense. Shields left the podium with a bit of encouragement for both current and future scholars.

“Every opportunity is informative,” Shields said. “…And I just say that because it is okay if the line isn’t straight, that’s okay. And part of being in undergraduate research gives you that experience to now determine, ‘where do you turn next?’”