November 30, 2022
Ithaca, NY | 37°F


Student research receives recognition at annual Whalen Symposium

Students gave over 400 separate presentations at the 21st Annual James J. Whalen Academic Symposium held in Campus Center on April 12. Approximately 30 students were awarded at the end of the day for their individual or group presentations.

Awards were presented to students who did research in disciplines such as biology, computer science, occupational and physical training, emerging media and legal studies. The awards were divided among those who made visual, oral and poster presentations.

Finalist students are judged by professors in the school they represent. Kimberly Wilkinson, co-chair of the Whalen Symposium, said the awards are a recognition of the excellence of the presentation or poster. She said the awards, a framed certificate and bookstore gift card, can be listed on a resume or CV as a commitment to excellence in scholarship in their area of study.

Senior Tyler Denn-Thiele, an awardwinner in the Health Science and Human Performance and Physical Training category, said the Whalen Symposium is a great experience for students to learn how to present their research.

“I think that Whalen is a great opportunity for individuals to present who have not presented at larger conferences,” Denn-Thiele said. “It gives you a real great boost of confidence and shows you how to interact with individuals both inside of your field and outside of your field in your conferences.”

Denn-Thiele, a physical therapy major, won an award for his poster presentation in the Health Promotion and Physical Education and Physical Therapy category.

Denn-Thiele said he has been researching idiopathic scoliosis, which does not have a known cause, since 2015. The focus of this research was to see if there were differences in running form in those who do have scoliosis compared to those who do not. He said that his group found statistically significant differences in the running form but that there was nothing that seemed clinically significant to them.

“It feels really great to get stuff out there that you’ve been working on so hard and have other people understand what you’re trying to do and why it’s important,” Denn-Thiele said.

Denn-Thiele first presented on this work at the Whalen Symposium in 2016 when it was starting out. Since then, he said he participated in the National Conference for the American College of Sports Medicine.

“It’s nice to see how I have grown,” he said. “For me, it’s not really about the winning.”

Although he is graduating, he said that the presentation will be presented at the World Conference of Biomechanics this summer and that other students will be able to pick up on this work in the future.

Those who wished to participate in the symposium submitted an abstract by March 5 and choose whether or not they would like to submit their presentation for an award. If a presentation was considered for an award, the presenters were notified March 19. The award ceremony was held in Emerson Suite A from 3:50 to 4:30 p.m. on the day of the symposium.

Senior Hannah Robison, an athletic training major, won an award for both a poster and an oral presentation. Her poster presentation, presented with junior Natalie Sharp, also an athletic training major, won in the Exercise and Sport Science and Athletic Training category. Her oral presentation was also in the Exercise and Sport Science category.

The oral presentation, The Use of Nonmedical Opioid Use in High School Athletes, was a critically appraised topic (CAT), a topic that is a shorter and less vigorous version of a systematic review. Robison presented it at the Regional Athletic Training Conference and will be presenting it at the National Athletic Training conference in the summer.

“I’m from West Virginia,” Robison said. “I’ve definitely seen a lot of the repercussions of the opioid epidemic and wanted to merge these two interests together between athletic training and the opioid epidemic.”

Junior biology major Madison Chlebowski won an award for her poster presentation in the biology category. For about a year, she studied how mutations in the genes of zebrafish altered how they behaved or reacted to sensory stimuli.

Chlebowski plans to continue this work in her senior year with more of a behavioral analysis of the fish. After her senior year, Chlebowski said she would like to go to graduate school.

“It definitely validates that I’m on the right track,” Chlebowski said. “I’m on the right track for what I want to do with my actual life after I leave IC.”

Lauren Suna, a sophomore emerging media major, won an award for her visual presentation in the emerging media category. Her presentation was about games combatting imposter syndrome and sexism in the computing industry. Imposter syndrome is when an individual cannot internalize their accomplishments and have a constant fear of being exposed as a fraud.

“It’s kind of surreal that what I’m doing can actually get some academic recognition and actually matters,” Suna said. “I can actually succeed in making games for social change if I want to.”

Suna said she decided to make a game that would simulate a woman trying to apply to be a CEO of a technology company while dealing with sexist comments from a man.

Suna said she hopes to go to the Games for Change Conference from June 28 to 30 in New York City.

Ashley Stalnecker can be reached at or via Twitter: @Ashley_Stal