Greater Allegheny student research presented at biannual conference

person viewing a student research poster

Kuei-Nuan Lin, associate professor of mathematics, meets with Brooke Weber during Greater Allegheny's research and creativity conference.  

Credit: Nick Trunzo

MCKEESPORT, Pa. — In the midst of celebration season at Penn State Greater Allegheny, the campus held its spring 2024 Undergraduate Student Research and Creativity Conference. Among the 29 unique projects on display were two researched and presented by first-year students: the usage of ChatGPT in higher education and understanding Lego-based therapy.

Ymani Merritt Bates, a second-semester honors student, explored Lego therapy focusing on the underlying meaning of the popular toy and the benefits beyond building and aesthetics.

“In my culture and technology class, [CAS 383N], we go into a lot about technologies and their underlying meanings,” Bates said. “I think of how Legos were developed for children and the underlying meanings of how they can be useful for things like mental health, communication skills and bringing people together.”

In an era overcome with artificial intelligence (AI) and its controversial usage in higher education, Emma Gatto and Gabby Tokar identified it as perfect research topic for their honors project.

Their research explored the effects of ChatGPT on academic integrity, student and faculty access to resources, and the ethical dilemmas of using ChatGPT and AI in higher education.

“It’s something as students that we wanted to dive farther into and learn about the benefits and repercussions of using it,” Tokar said. “I wasn’t very familiar with it, and like us, a lot of other students were curious too.”

The Research and Creativity Conference is held twice and year, allowing student researchers to display their projects. Students work closely with faculty advisers to develop the projects, all of which are judged by faculty. Conference attendees vote in an audience choice category.

This spring’s winners, by category, include:

STEM Research and Achievement Award

  1. Korrine McCutcheon – “Number of Hours Slept and Its Effect on Obesity”
  2. Brooke Weber – “Statistical Analysis of Knee Brace Functionality using MATLAB.”

Honorable Mention

Chelsea Sala – “Methodological Differences in Florescence Lifetime Image Microscopy (FILM) Analysis Part 2”

Creativity in the Arts and Humanities

  1. Jaylin Wescott, Alyssia Tucker, Brandon Graham – “Penn State Student Perceptions on Campus Police”
  2. Ymani Merritt Bates – “Lego Therapy”

Honorable Mention

Emma Gatto and Gabby Tokar – “ChatGPT Usage in Higher Education”

Judges Award

Aubree Sample – “Ginko Biloba and Memory”

Audience Choice Award

Jaylin Wescott, Alyssia Tucker, Brandon Graham – “Penn State Student Perceptions on Campus Police”

Library Research Award

  1. Emma Gatto and Gabby Tokar – “ChatGPT Usage in Higher Education”
  2. Tasneem Ekhtiar – “Ozempic: Drug for Diabetes and Weight Loss”

Honorable Mention

Connor Vogelsinger – “The Future of Warfare?”

Students who are interested in gaining research skills across academic disciplines may contact Honors and Undergraduate Research Program Coordinator Alandra Kahl at [email protected].  

Penn State Greater Allegheny’s mission is to inspire students to be greater by offering transformative educational experiences. The campus is committed to improving the community and the world, acting as a catalyst for individual and social change.