The start of the spring semester also brought an onslaught of conferences and presentations for many students and faculty across campus. Hiram’s emphasis on small class sizes and one-on-one connections with professors means students have more chances to be mentored in their research, often leading them to more public opportunities to flex their presentation and public speaking skills.

One professor who places a large emphasis on student’s abilities to present their research is Steven Romberger, Ph.D., director, Office of Scholarly Endeavors, associate professor of chemistry, biochemistry coordinator. Dr. Romberger spent several weeks of the past spring semester traveling across Ohio with students Meaghan Stafford ’24 and Tayleigh Price ’24 to present research and represent Hiram College at several conferences.

Meaghan Stafford at the Choose Ohio First Showcase
Meaghan Stafford at the Choose Ohio First Showcase

Meaghan Stafford kicked off the conference circuit for the group with her presentation, “Effects of Oxygen on Heliobacterial Photosynthesis,” in February at the 16th annual Choose Ohio First Showcase at the Ohio State Capitol Building. The Showcase brought together Choose Ohio First scholars from across the state who had conducted work in fields ranging from astronomy to nursing to civil engineering. Choose Ohio First focuses on the interdisciplinary nature of the STEM field. The goal of the Showcase is to allow scholars in the program to gain experience in presentation styles and public speaking while also networking with business leaders, professors, researchers and more.

Meaghan Stafford at the Ohio Academy of Science Meeting
Meaghan Stafford at the Ohio Academy of Science Meeting

Stafford then presented the same research at the Ohio Academy of Science Annual Meeting held at Kent State University in April. Stafford presented alongside a wide range of academics including principal investigators from R1 universities. Dr. Romberger was also in attendance at the meeting to network with fellow faculty members regarding expanding ideas in research, experimentation, and approaches in the chemical education field.

Also in April, Tayleigh Price headed to Columbus to attend the Ohio Supercomputer Center Research Symposium at the Ohio Supercomputer Center. Price’s poster presentation is entitled, “Characterizing the Effects of Ferric Ammonium Citrate on Heliobacterial Photosynthesis.” The symposium brought together both long-time users and new users of the Ohio Supercomputer Center to present their research and topics ranged from advancements in computing to astrophysics to quantum chemistry to STEM education via robotics. While the research Price and Dr. Romberger conducted was not heavily based in computing, Dr. Romberger recalls one conference attendee remarking, “we can’t build you a computer or write you a program to help with your research if we don’t know what your research is!”

Finally, Dr. Romberger and Price rounded out their long conference tour with a visit to the Eastern Regional Photosynthesis Conference at the Marine Biology Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA. This conference attracts researchers in all areas of photosynthesis including artificial, biophysics, carbon fixation, microbiology, and more. Researchers were in attendance from across the country and Canada. This conference was not only beneficial to present their research, but the pair also networked with business personnel from the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy.

Tayleigh Price at the Eastern Regional Photosynthesis Conference
Tayleigh Price at the Eastern Regional Photosynthesis Conference

Most notably, Price was awarded the JASCO Poster Award from the Eastern Regional Photosynthesis Conference “for excellence in poster presentation and relevance to JASCO’s mission.” JASCO is a Japanese based company specializing in a range of molecular spectroscopy and chromatography analytical instruments and accessories. Receiving this award as an undergraduate researcher was a huge accomplishment for Price.

“While it is a sponsored award, I think the best part for me was that my colleagues in photosynthesis, many of which are on the absolute frontiers of scientific advancement, thought Tayleigh [Price]’s work deserved to be commended,” said Dr. Romberger of the award.

These students and Dr. Romberger each stand to show the power of hands on research and education that is available at Hiram College.

By Taylor Cook