Student Research

Connecting faculty mentors and student researchers

Research enables students to participate in discipline-specific activities that lead to the production of new knowledge or works. Under the direction of a faculty mentor, students have an opportunity to enhance independent thinking and gain hands-on research experience.

Selected Research Projects

Dr. Ginsburg with Jessica McHugh

Dr. Ginsburg with Jessica McHugh

Jessica McHugh: From the Field to the Lab

With a lifelong interest in and aptitude for science, Jessica McHugh ’20 is exploring career options in biotechnology or forensic chemistry. This summer, she spent approximately seven hours a day testing to determine if the protein complex Yaf9, a subunit of NuA4, stimulates binding to acetylated histones.

As part the Clare Boothe Luce Research Scholars Initiative that builds vital success pathways for female undergraduates in math and the sciences, Jessica gained valuable laboratory experience working with Daniel Ginsburg, Ph.D., associate professor of biology at Immaculata.

Project Title: Parents’ Implicit Theories of Intelligence Predict Preschool Children’s Responses to Academic Challenge
Faculty Researcher: Dawn Kriebel, Ph.D.
Student Researcher: Arden Vizzard

Student researcher, Arden Vizzard, was accepted to Widener University’s Master’s in Social Work program with funding!


The purpose of this project was to analyze data from a large sample of Head Start preschool students and their parents. The researchers were specifically looking for links between parent beliefs and children’s behaviors. The researchers analyzed data gathered by Dr. Eleanor Brown at West Chester University and also conducted an extensive review of the literature to determine how the study adds to the studies that have already been completed. This project is significant because it provides evidence that parents’ beliefs do have an impact on their children’s persistence with challenging academic tasks, a sub-field of psychology known as “achievement motivation”. It is widely known that parents sometimes inadvertently transmit their academic fears to their children, creating a vicious cycle in which children do not persist at challenging tasks because they do not believe that their efforts will lead to improvement. This project reinforces the importance of reminding parents (and teachers) to encourage a growth mindset in their children (and students) rather than a fixed mindset. The researchers presented their findings at the annual meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association in Philadelphia in March, 2018.

Project Title: Clothing with a Purpose
Faculty Researchers: Lina Castro, M.S. and Sister Denise M. Mollica, IHM, M.S., C.F.C.S.
Student Researchers: Olivia Gray, Melissa Rodgers, Erica Sands, Rachel Scardapane, Kellianne Antosh

Student researcher, Melissa Rodgers, was awarded second place and received a $2,500 scholarship for her design, “Hustle and Bustle”.


This project provided the opportunity for students to research the market niche, consumers with disabilities, within the fashion industry. Student researchers visited the Runway of Dreams Foundation in New York City to learn about designing and creating adaptive clothing that promotes the inclusion of the differently-abled community within the fashion industry.  Students also visited REI Co-op to study various types of closures used for clothing.  Using this information, each studentexamined the discomforts that an individual who is wheelchair-bound experiences as a result of mainstream clothing and developed solutions by creating adaptive garments.  Five students entered their designs in the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC) and Runway of Dreams Foundation’s Fashion for All Student Design Competition.

Project TitleReliability of Manual Muscle Testing and Dynamometry in Athletic Training and Exercise Science Students
Faculty ResearcherKelly A. Stalker, Ed.D., LAT, ATC
Student Researchers: Umara Iftikhar, Madison Curley, Shannon Ehart, Cornelia Schuetz

As a result of this research project the Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciencesdepartment gained valuable information about the retention of student knowledge and reliability of student skills related to manual muscle testing.


The purpose of this research project was to determine the reliability of manual muscle testing (MMT) and dynamometry techniques in athletic training and exercise science students. The subjects were placed into one of four test groups based on the order of recruitment into the study.  A number of statistical analyses were conducted to determine the reliability of the testing equipment and the inter-rater reliability of the subjects. Overall, it was determined that there was a strong correlation between the two pieces of equipment utilized in the study and a poor inter-rater reliability amongst the student testers. It can be determined from these findings that students in the exercise science and athletic training major do not have ample time to practice their manual muscle testing skills. Participation in this research project provided valuable hands-on experience for exercise science and athletic training students. The four lead researchers increased their knowledge and understanding of manual muscle testing techniques and received extensive instruction and practice using the new equipment. The student researchers had to not only learn about the equipment used in the research, but they also needed to instruct the student “testers” and be able to interpret the data provided by the equipment. The exercise science and athletic training “testers” also had the opportunity to practice their MMT skills for the four muscle groups tested. They were exposed to the new equipment purchased by the grant and were able to utilize it in conjunction with their previously learned skills.

Project TitleDiversity and Psychological Assessment: Practicum Supervisor Knowledge of Assessment Considerations with Intersectional Clients
Faculty ResearcherJed Yalof, Psy.D., ABPP, ABSNP, ABAP, FABP
Student Researcher: Leigh Burnett

Student researcher, Leigh Burnett, presented the results at the National Council of Schools and Programs in Professional Psychology (NCSPP) Conference in January 2018 and her poster received positive feedback from conference attendees.


The purpose of this project was to investigate psychological assessment supervisor knowledge of intersectionality as a diversity construct via a survey of knowledge of relevant literature. The survey was developed in collaboration by the faculty-student research team. There is no research in the overlapping areas of assessment supervision and supervisor knowledge of intersectionality, which makes this project the first effort to address these areas as part of one research project. Results showed variable supervisor knowledge across different areas related to intersectionality.

Project TitleFood Matters!— Investigating the Impact of a Systemic Nutrition Education Combined with Healthy Food Supply on Cardiovascular Health of Residents of Chester, PA
Faculty ResearcherQian Jia, Ph.D., RD, LDN
Student Researchers: Kathryn Padva, Teri Dickinson, Shaylyn McDowell, Kathryn Dwyer, Julie JeBran, Erin Fischer, Lama Mrayati

“I feel that my involvement in the Food Matters! project has provided me opportunities to be a facilitator, leader, organizer, educator, researcher, student, and has reinforced that I am on the right life path.” – Erin Fischer


Food Matters! is an innovative approach that is aimed at addressing food insecurity and heart health problems faced by many families in Chester, PA. The program is sponsored by Chester Eastside, Inc (CEI). CEI gives approximately 120,000 bagged meals to Chester residents each year. Food Matters!is designed to improve health outcomes of those who are at risk for cardiovascular disease and includes an intervention of nutrition education combined with a demo lunch and 3-day giveaway of healthy food, and a research component, which was implemented by the research team from IU.  Participating in the program either as a student facilitator or as a student researcher gave students immeasurable hands-on experience in several areas: a) program planning, b) implementation and evaluation of nutrition education programs (including training student facilitators, leading discussion with participants, organizing schedules, data collection and analysis, evaluation and presentation), and c) counseling and communication. As anticipated, the research team was able to create a sustainable interactive learning program that gives back to the community, serves as a practical learning experience for all students involved, and creates inter-disciplinary connections between Immaculata University and the community.  Primary data analysis of the first cohort of participants has shown an increase of nutrition knowledge and variety of fruit and vegetable choices, and a decrease in weight, BMI, systolic and diastolic blood pressure upon the completion of 6 weekly meetings.

Project TitleGetFIT@IU: A service-learning and community outreach program servicing adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities
Faculty Researcher: Laurie DiRosa, Ed.D.
Student Researchers: Rosemarie Reitman, Haley Rishell, Dominique Colanero, and Amanda Rivas

Presenting at the Philadelphia Higher Education Network for Neighborhood Development (PHENND) Health Conference gave IU and the Department of Health, Exercise and Nutrition Sciences exposure to the greater Philadelphia higher education community as a leader in health/wellness for individuals with disabilities as well as service learning and community outreach.


GetFIT is a fitness program to promote active living in persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their caregivers. In conjunction with the founding organization of GetFIT, the Family Resource Network of NJ, and thanks to the support of Immaculata through a mini-grant (2016-2017), the Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences department was able to implement this unique program on campus during the Spring 2018 semester. Students assumed leadership roles in the administration of the program and several students participated in leading planning board meetings, establishing community and campus connections, recruiting student volunteers to participate in the program, marketing the program, creating specialized exercise programs for individuals with disabilities, and developing and implementing individual research projects. As a result of this mini-grant, students presented their work at the Philadelphia Higher Education Network for Neighborhood Development (PHENND) Health Conference, April 27, 2018, at Temple University’s Health Campus.  The purpose of the conference session was multi-faceted. Primarily, the session aimed to introduce GetFIT@IU, its mission and vision, and the numerous opportunities that have been created for student learning, community outreach, and research by implementing the program. The session also included student presenters, describing their research and how the program has benefitted them professionally. Lastly, the presenters assisted the participants in brainstorming how they can implement a version of GetFIT@IU at their institution.

Project Title: The effects of thin media and body positivity imagery on self-compassion, mood and body image
Faculty Researcher: Ashley Higgins, Psy.D.
Student ResearchersAdrianna Pennachi and Danielle Betzale

As part of this project student resesearches, Adrianna Pennachi and Danielle Betzale, participated in the student research panel at the yearly meeting of the Pennsylvania Psychological Association in June 2018.


This study aimed to examine the effects of viewing thin media and body positive imagery on variables of mood, body image, endorsement of an ideal body type, and self-compassion. Images that feature underweight female figures are referred to as thin media imagery.  Body positivity imagery typically features females of diverse body shapes and diverse ethnic backgrounds, and at times a lack of digital alteration of female models.  While the negative effects of viewing thin media imagery are well-established, it is less clear if viewing more realistic imagery of female models, such as body positivity imagery, leads to more positive or neutral feelings about the self.  Student participants were asked to describe their mood and body image on a set of questionnaires before and after viewing a 10-minute PowerPoint slideshow of thin media imagery or a 10-minute PowerPoint slideshow of body positivity imagery to which they were randomly assigned. They were then invited back  one month later, at which point the mood, body image, and self-compassion questionnaires were re-administered.  At Time 1, participants who viewed body positive imagery reported significantly better body image, more positive emotions, and fewer negative emotions when compared to participants who viewed thin media imagery. One month later (Time 2), there were no significant between group differences in self-compassion or endorsement of an ideal body type. The results of this study are consistent with an emerging literature on the positive impact of body positive imagery on the emotional wellbeing of young women.  While the research on body positivity is in its infancy compared to the preponderance of studies on the negative impact of thin media imagery on young women, these results suggest that body positive images can elicit a temporary improvement in overall emotional wellness.  In conclusion, this study suggests a benefit to incorporating body positive imagery at the societal (i.e. media, body positive campaigns) and individual level due to its immediate and positive emotional impact on young women.

Posters Under the Dome

This annual research symposium showcases undergraduate student research. This symposium features the research work of over 100 undergraduate students. Highlighted here are winners of the 2019 and 2018 symposiums.

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