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Students net BIG EAST research poster honors 

Mar 16, 2022
4 min Read
Eugene Curtin
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BIG EAST Research Poster winners 2022

Keely Orndorff and Lauren Barbush watched the Creighton men’s basketball team battle for the BIG EAST conference title March 12 knowing that no matter what happened down there on the Madison Square Garden court, they were bringing conference honors home to Omaha.

Orndorff took first place and Barbush third in the inaugural BIG EAST Undergraduate Research Poster Symposium held earlier that day, also at Madison Square Garden.

The symposium was a Creighton creation, stemming from a proposal by Julie Strauss-Soukup, PhD, professor of chemistry and biochemistry and associate vice provost for research and scholarship. Carol Fassbinder-Orth, PhD, professor of biology and director of Creighton’s Center for Undergraduate Research and Scholarship, served on the symposium planning committee.

Orndorff and Barbush competed against 55 students drawn from 11 BIG EAST schools and were among five Creighton students chosen to present a poster.

Orndorff, a neuroscience major, presented a poster describing the microscopic world of protein interaction and its impact on which genes are expressed in the human cell.

This symposium is truly a testament to Creighton’s dedication to undergraduate research and the academic success of its students.
— Lauren Barbush

“On the morning of the conference, I felt nervous but very excited to present,” Orndorff says. “It was wonderful to engage directly with someone and answer their questions face to face.

“When Dr. Soukup, who presented the awards, began reading my research title as the first-place winner, I looked at my research mentor, Dr. (Lynne) Dieckman, and she gave me the biggest smile. My first-place award is an opportunity to honor her and all that she has taught me over the past three years.”

Barbush, a biology major at Creighton, presented about the therapeutic impact of the Indian long pepper on noise-induced hearing loss.

“The most nerve-racking part was simply waiting for the first judge to arrive,” she says. “Surprisingly, the anxiety melted away once I began talking. It no longer felt like a high-stakes presentation; it became a casual conversation about a topic that I'm passionate about.

“When Dr. Soukup began announcing the awards, I was stunned to hear my poster title for third place. I teared up immediately. When Keely was announced for first place, I felt incredibly proud of her and proud to be a Creighton student.

“This symposium is truly a testament to Creighton’s dedication to undergraduate research and the academic success of its students.”

Other competing Creighton students were political science major JJ Mark, biochemistry major Rhiannon McCracken and English and theater major Elizabeth Peller.

Five Students Research Poster
Left to right: Lauren Barbush, JJ Mark, Rhiannon McCracken, Keely Orndorff and Elizabeth Peller.