Spring Intersections: Showcasing student researchers

At Case Western Reserve University, undergraduate research is a cornerstone of our identity and reputation. But when we are so often immersed in the daily tasks of being a student and in our own research, there are few chances to familiarize ourselves with the incredible work of our peers. Luckily, the Intersections poster sessions held every semester are a perfect way to get to know our fellow undergraduates and honor their hard work in all sorts of fields. Here we spotlight some of the incredibly talented student researchers who presented their work at Spring Intersections 2024, each representing the rich diversity of disciplines and academic pursuits on our campus.


Eliot Rowe is a fourth-year student studying mechanical engineering. His project with Mitchell Arch, another fourth-year mechanical engineering major, aims to utilize robotics techniques to create a device which collects manure and prevents it from entering the water supply. They have created a first prototype for a design that attaches to a commercial tractor and sweeps manure into its bucket, with modifications that allow it to work on hills and around other obstacles. While they are still hoping to make a second prototype in the future and expand on their project, Rowe says that presenting at Intersections has “made all of the hours I spent late at night seem more worth it in a way.” He also has developed a newfound appreciation for “the countless hours of engineering time that goes into developing even the simplest of items,” something he could not fully comprehend until engaging in the work himself.


Basil Yaseen and Sophia Kafiti are both fourth-years majoring in biology and economics. Their project, titled “Doctor’s Orders: The Relationship Between Number of Prescribers and Rates of Opioid Use Disorder,” uses Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Ohio-based data to take a healthcare economics approach to addressing the opioid crisis. Their findings demonstrate that at the state level, there was no correlation between the number of prescribers and rates of opioid abuse, but for specific Ohio counties, the relationship did exist. Initially, the two wanted to find a topic that overlapped both of their majors, making any healthcare economics topic seem viable. However, the opioid epidemic stuck out to them the most, considering Ohio has one of the highest rates of opioid overdoses in the nation. They hoped this project could help them “possibly look into potential policies and avenues that can help our own community.”


Lucas Yang is a second-year studying computer science and English. As an English major, Yang felt a little intimidated by the STEM-heavy poster session at Intersections, where “it was kind of a left field poster to see [me] between, like, cancer research and a robot arm.” Nonetheless, his project “Sirens and Succubi: ‘H2O’ and Female Sexual Awakening” was fascinating to everyone who spoke with him, myself included. Yang explores the Australian drama “H2O: Just Add Water” and how female sexuality is portrayed as the monstrous “Other” in the popular show. Yang also had the opportunity to present his work at the Popular Culture Association conference in Chicago, where he was able to talk about the significance of his work with academics from all over the country. His work was particularly relevant, as “there’s a huge lack of scholarship—I think none—on this show,” so he enjoyed looking through “all the layers of meaning that have been so underexplored.”


Hana Lee is a fourth-year biochemistry and music double major who presented on “The Effect of Charged Residues on Substrate Glycosylation by the Core-1 Transferase.” Lee’s work expands on prior research on a particular post-translational modification of proteins, mucin-type O-glycosylation, and focuses on the Core-1 enzyme. She finds that Core-1 transferase has a strong preference for negative charges, during which process she also discovered a new inhibitor for the enzyme, sodium formate. Lee has been working on her project for four semesters and a summer, and during that time had many detours along with the discovery of the new inhibitor. However, during this time she has enjoyed the ability to “dive deeper into biochemistry within the last two years,” especially as her project connects to what she has learned in her biochemistry courses.


Kayla Characklis, Eleanor Clarke, Sydney Stone and Alexandra Unda are all fourth-years who spent their time working with the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo (CMZ) on the development of puzzle feeders. These are special feeding devices that provide mental stimulation by “encouraging the animals to use their natural feeding or foraging behaviors.” They have successfully built puzzle feeders for two giraffes and a giant anteater at the zoo, and plan on dropping them off as soon as they have presented their senior capstone. Throughout their project, they have learned how to meet deadlines while still expressing their creative freedom, and they have loved “working with the CMZ staff and visiting the zoo for meeting and testing.” They hope their work has made people more excited to visit the zoo and learn about puzzle feeding in general.

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