Students Impress with Engaging and Informative Research Presentations

Group of students in front of stage

Contributor: Bianca Dishmon ’24, Communications Intern

This month, students in the Honors Independent Research Study (HIRS) program and a participant in the St. Jude High School Student Summer Fellowship presented their final projects to an audience of St. Mary’s and Memphis community members in the Rose Theater. 

Led by Upper School Science Teacher Dr. Anna Bess Sorin, the HIRS program offers a unique opportunity for rising seniors to conduct an original, engaging research project of their choosing. HIRS students begin their research project in the summer by completing hands-on work in partnership with a community mentor who is an expert in the field. During the fall semester, participants work to prepare a research paper and oral presentation.

Participation in the HIRS program allows the girls to complete college-level research over six months while making meaningful connections within a field that interests them. This year, students tackled various research topics, from studies in gambling to the relationship between AI and medicine to behavior therapy for teenagers. ⁠A full list of the 2023 projects is below. 

HIRS student Emily Smith ’24, whose project focused on chemical reactions, says the program helped her gain a greater understanding of chemistry, form strong relationships, and prepare her for future work. ⁠

“HIRS showed me what graduate and Ph.D. level research looks like. I was able to grow closer with the members of my lab and learn more about their degree programs,” says Smith. “I plan to major in chemistry in college, and it is guaranteed that I will be doing some sort of research as an undergrad. Having this experience will prepare me in so many ways.”⁠

Congrats to the 2023 cohort of HIRS students for their impressive projects. Click the button below to watch the HIRS presentations from this year. 

Watch 2023 HIRS Presentations

2023 HIRS Student Projects

Josie Block ’24
Inertial Measure Unit (IMU) Event Detection: Evaluating how IMU measurements compare to traditional methods for assessing running techniques
Mentor: Dr. Douglas Powell, School of Health Sciences, University of Memphis 

Ella Curlin
Health, Physiology and Outreach for Wild Freshwater Turtles at the Memphis Zoo: Evaluating wild, non-collection turtles at the Memphis Zoo and using them for public outreach
education
Mentors: Dr. Lori Neumann-Lee and Jennifer Terry, Arkansas State University, in partnership with the Memphis Zoo research division

Isabel Cyriac ’24
Neurodevelopment Outcomes Based on Timing of Transcatheter PDS Closure in Preterm Infants
: Analyzing data on patients’ development post PDS closure to develop best
practices
Mentor: Dr. Ranjit Philip, LeBonheur Children’s Hospital

Averie Howell ’24
Financial Distress due to Gambling Addiction:
Investigating how to accurately measure financial distress as it relates to gambling addiction for implementation in later
treatment
Mentors: Dr. James Whelan and Halle Smith, Psychology Department, University of Memphis

Caroline Hunt ’24
Categorizing Radiology Reports using Artificial Intelligence:
Determining the accuracy of an AI model’s ability to read chest X-ray reports
Mentor: Dr. Xiaolei Huang, Department of Computer Science, University of Memphis

Isabel Isaacs ’24
Implementation of Dialectical Behavior Therapy into High Schools for Social and Emotional Learning:
Assessing the need and value of using DBT STEPS-A in Memphis City
Schools
Mentor: Dr. Amanda Hasselle, Department of Psychology, University of Memphis

Mary-Kate Kalodimos ’24
In Vitro and In Vivo Characterization of Two Novel Osteosarcoma Cell Lines:
Assessing the growth and metastasis of two osteosarcoma cell lines
Mentors: Dr. Myriam Labelle, Dr. Akshita Bhatt, Dr. Benjamin Minden-Birkenmier, and Dr. Olivia Travis, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital 

Erica Ormseth ’24
Improving Graduate Teaching Assistant Feedback on Students’ Computer Code:
Developing a Natural Language Processing model to asses and improve TA feedback on
students’ computer code
Mentors: Dr. Amy Cook, Computer Science Department at University of Memphis; Dr. Alistair Windsor, Mathematical Sciences Department at University of Memphis.

Anum Raza ’24
The Effect of Early Life Stress on Male and Female B6 Mice:
Comparing how chronic stress affects nest building and pup retrieval as measures of parenting quality
Mentor: Dr. Melloni Cook and Chris Hartless, Psychology Department, University of Memphis

Ellis Rougeou ’24
Enantioselectivity for Pharmaceutical Design:
Testing a compound’s ability to favor enantiomers for potential pharmaceutical development
Mentors: Dr. Charles Garner and Breanna von Dollen, Department of Chemistry, University of Memphis

Rebecca Schweitzer ’24
The Effect of Race on the Use of Research Evidence in the TN State Legislature:
Evaluating legislative session videos and coding transcripts to assess how race affects TN legislators’ use of research evidence in policy deliberations
Mentor: Dr. Courtnee Melton-Fant, School of Public Health, University of Memphis

Reeya Sharma ’24
Social Reward Processing in Males and Females:
Assessing male and female social interactions to better understand social reward processing for future use in dopamine
and addiction studies
Mentors: Dr. Deranda Lester and Travis Erickson, Psychology Department, University of Memphis 

Emily Smith ’24
Bimetallic Catalysts for Deoxydehydration Reactions:
Synthesizing catalysts comprised of different metals for future use in the petrochemical industry
Mentors: Dr. Timothy Brewster, University of Memphis; Lindsey Baker, Kalamazoo College

Mila Szatkowski ’24
Marketing BRAIN Center Memphis:
Developing marketing materials for BRAIN Center Memphis’ Hurt2Healing program to implement mental health services in
pediatric hospitals nationwide
Mentors: Dr. Eraina Schauss, founder and director of BRAIN Center, University of Memphis; Jennifer Parris, Director of Communication, St. Mary’s Episcopal School

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