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BIG EAST tournament brings Creighton researchers to New York

Mar 4, 2024
3 min Read
Amanda Biggs

Bluejays are fierce competitors both on and off the court. While the men’s basketball team plays in the BIG EAST tournament in New York City, five undergraduate students from Creighton will also head to the Big Apple to compete in the BIG EAST Undergraduate Research Poster Symposium.

While intense basketball games are battled March 13-16, undergraduate students from the 11 BIG EAST universities will present their research projects at Madison Square Garden on March 16. Projects led by Bluejays include laboratory experiments to psychological studies, and a panel of judges will choose which research projects rank above the rest.  

This year marks the symposium's third year of competition. In the past two years Creighton students have placed in the top three. In 2023, biochemistry major, Rhiannon McCracken took third place for her poster titled “Structural and Functional Analysis of Crassostrea gigas OAZ-PK RNA". During the competitions inaugural year, Creighton grads Keely Orndorff and Lauren Barbush took home respectively first and third place.  

At Creighton, undergraduates can get involved in research as early as freshman year, and the University’s undergraduate research opportunity program is open to all majors. Students chosen to represent Creighton at the BIG EAST competition include: 

Grace Jaworski will present research on the interaction between two proteins that help DNA stay organized in the cell nucleus. She is a biology major and is mentored by Lynne Margaret Dieckman, MS, PhD.  

“Dr. Lynne Dieckman and Dr. James Fletcher have been especially influential in my development as a researcher and scientific presenter,” she says. “I've learned how to effectively communicate science by emulating them, and I am confident I am well-prepared for a big opportunity like this.” 

Connor Price is a chemistry major whose research involves finding new chemicals that fluoresce when combined with metals so they can be detected. His mentor is James T. Fletcher, PhD.  

“I am super excited to see New York City and present my research at Madison Square Garden,” he says. “This is our opportunity to show off and represent Creighton research.” 

Ava Szatmary will present research on global wealth inequality that includes sharing practices and resource distribution in Namibia collected through a cross-cultural psychology study. She is a psychology major mentored by Jill R. Brown, PhD.  

“I don't think any other school could have prepared me for this experience as well as Creighton,” she says. “Creighton has allowed me the opportunity to be involved in research from the end of my freshman year, to travel to another country with the help of research funding and to build a solid understanding of the research process through my classes.” 

Cleo Elizabeth Zagurski is a health administration and policy and public health double major whose research analyzes the Nebraska Women’s Bill of Rights using interpretive policy analysis and policy window theory. She is mentored by Erika L. Dakin Kirby, PhD.  

“I feel like it can be extremely easy for schools to highlight their athletic teams but having opportunities to share their student's competitive results related to research helps share other aspects of student life,” she says. 

Kate Hessman is a psychology major whose research involves analyzing consumer behavior, specifically looking at how self-concepts guide purchasing decisions when combined with urgent decision making. Her faculty mentor is Joshua A.L. Fairchild, PhD.  

“With most research conferences or presentations, you very rarely stray away from your specific field of study, so the opportunity to learn across multiple disciplines and gain exposure to different fields is highly regarded,” she says.  

Creighton’s BIG EAST Undergraduate Research Poster Symposium finalists were chosen by the Center for Undergraduate Research and Scholarship (CURAS), which connects students to research opportunities and supports and facilitates research across the University.  

The five students will travel to New York City on March 15 for the competition. Travel expenses are covered by CURAS, and after they present their research, the students get to attend the BIG EAST tournament championship game and explore New York City.  

Creighton has allowed me the opportunity to be involved in research from the end of my freshman year, to travel to another country with the help of research funding and to build a solid understanding of the research process through my classes.
— Ava Szatmary, psychology major