10:35 AM

Student Researchers Showcase Their Work at UST’s Annual Research Symposium

Keynote Speaker is Dr. Peter Hotez

Dr. Peter Hotez, keynote speaker at UST's 2022 Research SymposiumAcademic excitement arrives this time every year. The University of St. Thomas-Houston’s 2022 Research Symposium takes place April 28-29, highlighting fascinating topics explored with rigor by St. Thomas students. And this year’s keynote speaker is the world-renowned researcher Peter Hotez, M.D., Ph.D.  The esteemed Dr. Hotez is professor of Pediatrics and Molecular Virology & Microbiology at Texas Children’s Hospital and Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.  His timely talk is titled “COVID-19 Vaccines: Science vs. Anti-science.” A leading scientist and expert in the fields of global health and vaccinology, he will speak about how “efforts to promote global vaccine equity, while countering anti-science aggression, reflect our shared commitment to science for the benefit of humanity.”

Dr. Hotez’s appearance is scheduled for Thursday, April 28, 2022, from 4:30 – 5:30 p.m., in UST’s Jones Hall.

The Crucial Importance of Serious Student Research

Spring Research Symposium exemplifies the University’s commitment to promoting undergraduate and graduate research as a proven path to critical thinking, better preparing individuals for professional success. Students become experienced in using research tools, analyzing outcomes and demonstrating professional ethics and honesty.

UST Chair of the Committee for Student Research Dr. Arati Nanda Pati said, “Research Symposium is an exciting opportunity for our students. Not only do they develop critical thinking and purposeful skepticism in the process, but a number of them will receive funding and go on to present their findings elsewhere regionally and nationally.”

The Impressive Statistics

Twenty-one proposals were funded across 9 departments supporting 86 students. The Symposium has received 104 research submissions this year.  Of these, 66 are oral presentations, and 38 are posters. Together, they span 13 departments.

Below is a showcasing of three abstracts. The first would be of particular interest to Houstonians, since the city is home to an abundance of mosquitos.

Abstract About Mosquitos (Biology) 

Title: “Metagenomics Analysis of Viral Families Carried by Aedes Mosquitos in Houston”

Student Authors: Martin Silguero, Franklin Pham, Ana Hernandez, Sarah Strobel, Angelina Le, Ava Ngo, Michelle Najarro, Paola Gonzalez, William Maldonado and David Brittain

Faculty Advisor:  Rosmarie Rosell, Ph.D, Maia Larios-Sanz, Ph.D

Student researchers took a metagenomic approach to determine the viral populations carried by different species of mosquitos found in Houston. The group sequenced the entire genetic material of pooled mosquito samples and analyzed it with computational tools. The work involved collecting and separating mosquitos by species and sex using morphological characteristics and confirming the separations using DNA barcoding. Total DNA and RNA were extracted. Using sequencing technology and analysis, a total of 51 different species of viruses were identified in a female sample and 40 different species in the male sample.   

Abstract About Ink Color and the Brain (Psychology)

Title:  “Ink of Color and Cognitive Performance”

Student Author:  Jhoeli Vasquez

Faculty Advisor:  Dr. Jo Meier-Marquis

The purpose of this research is to determine if ink color has an impact on cognitive performance, as measured with a general knowledge test created for the purpose of this study. Three separate groups of participants will take a general knowledge test. Participants will be given the general knowledge test printed in black, blue or red ink. It is predicted that ink color will impact participants’ performance on the test. The importance of this study is to determine factors that can impact students’ cognitive performance beyond academic ability.

Abstract About Community and Individuality (Theology)

Title:  “Human Community and Individuality in Christ: Using the Lord’s Prayer to Refute Enlightenment Ideas”

Student Author:  Anthony Aquila

Faculty Advisor:  Sr. Theresa Marie Chau Nguyen

The thesis of this paper is that the Enlightenment notions of the “individual” and the “community,” the “I” and the “we,” are fundamentally incompatible with the Catholic Church’s understanding of the “I” and the “we.” This is approached through the lens of St. Thomas Aquinas and his view on the human person as seeking the good. Then the ideas of “I” and the “we” as outlined by Joseph Ratzinger in his Jesus of Nazareth series, particularly his reflection on the Our Father.  These two thinkers will represent the Catholic Church’s ideas of unity/community and the individual. On the other side of this argument are four Enlightenment thinkers who reduce society to either an overemphasis of the “I” or the overemphasis of the “we.” Thomas Hobbs, Georg Hegel and Friedrich Schleiermacher all make claims about the human person that fail to truly grasp the dimensions of the interplay between the individual and the whole. Hobbes doesn’t trust the “we” dimension of humanity, Hegel reduces history to the “we” of a spirit that realizes itself over time without a concept of the individual and the role they play as individual, and Schleiermacher reduces theology to the changing feelings and experiences of a particular time, at the cost of truth, which is to reduce the “I” and the “we” to reflect only ourselves in an echo chamber divorced from the eternal truths of God, thus the “I” dominates Schleiermacher’s thought. Ultimately, Ratzinger and Aquinas both believe that it is the Christological component of the Catholic faith that truly allows for these two concepts to be related and yet distinct. This ends up culminating in the person of Christ as reflected on by Ratzinger in the Our Father, Aquinas in his view on the human person, and the inspired word itself, the sacred scriptures.

Once again, the University of St. Thomas-Houston is proud to present its much-anticipated spring 2022 Research Symposium.