Indiana University of Pennsylvania will celebrate innovation, student and faculty research, and creative work during IUP’s 2024 Research Appreciation Week, planned for April 8–12. STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

Research Appreciation Week spotlights the spirit of innovation and collaboration in disciplines throughout the university and recognizes the contributions that IUP’s original research and scholarship make to this region and to the world.

In addition to the annual Women in STEM Summit to begin the week’s events on April 8, and the annual Scholars Forum and Three-Minute Thesis competition on April 10, IUP will host a Sneaker Art Workshop for students with alumna Jakyra Simpson on April 8 as part of the Women in STEM Summit, an Artificial Intelligence Summit on April 9, and IUP’s first Innovation Panel on April 10.

All programs are free and open to the community.

“Research Week at IUP continues to bring new and unique programming to IUP while celebrating the breadth and depth of IUP’s faculty and student research,” Dean of the IUP School of Graduate Studies and Research Hilliary Creely said.

“It also showcases the transformative impact participating in research has on our students—and that this commitment to student engagement in research is something that makes IUP really special,” she said.

IUP STEM Women’s Summit, “Ky the Chemist” Program

The IUP STEM Women’s Summit, highlighting current women scientists and alumnae working in the science fields, will be held from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in IUP’s John J. and Char Kopchick Hall.

It begins with a poster session of student research projects and networking opportunities on the first- and second-floor lobbies from 10:00 to 11:15 a.m.

During the formal program at 11:15 a.m. in Kopchick Hall rooms 102–104, the Dr. Patricia Hilliard Robertson Memorial Scholarship for Outstanding Female Science Student Award will be presented by family members of the late Hilliard Robertson to Cleo McMahan, a biology major from Indiana.

Hilliard Robertson’s mother, Ilse Hilliard of Homer City, was a long-time faculty member at IUP in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology.

The Hilliard Robertson scholarship was established as a living legacy for Hilliard Robertson, a 1985 graduate of IUP from Homer City, who died May 24, 2001, in Houston. Hilliard Robertson had been assigned as a crew-support astronaut for the Expedition Two crew that was preparing for service aboard the International Space Station in 2001. Hilliard Robertson received the Distinguished Alumni Award from IUP in 2000.

McMahan, a 2020 graduate of Indiana High School, is the daughter of Mark and Bonnie McMahan. She has been recognized for academic excellence by her department. Upon her graduation in the spring, she plans to attend West Liberty University to pursue a master’s degree in zoo science.

“I am honored to accept this award,” McMahan said. “I cannot emphasize how much I have enjoyed my time here at IUP. The staff here is outstanding and has been more than willing to work with me to make sure all my goals are accomplished.”

The panel discussion will follow with five women scientists, including three alumnae:

  • Barbara Kutchko ’93, senior research scientist, National Energy Technology Lab;
  • Jakyra Simpson ’18, science communicator, aka “Ky the Chemist”;
  • Laura Wentworth ’18, biologist and account executive at IntePros;
  • Erica Tamburo, biomedical engineer and president of the Pittsburgh chapter of GetWITit; and
  • Deanne Snavely, IUP dean emerita of the John J. and Char Kopchick College of Science and Mathematics.

Kutchko specializes in wellbore isolation, oil well cementing, and subsurface materials characterization. She holds a patent on “Method of Evaluating pH Using a Metallic Nanoparticle Incorporate Nanocomposite-based Optical phH Sensor” and received the Women in Energy Leadership Award and the Energy Leadership Award from the Pittsburgh Business Times and the Energy Award and Process Safety Award from the IChemE Global Awards. She is a Samuel J. Heyman Service to America finalist. In addition to her degree from IUP, she earned a doctorate in civil and environmental engineering from Carnegie Mellon and a master’s degree in geology from the University of Pittsburgh.

Prior to her current work with IntePros, Wentworth worked with the Beacon Hill Staffing Group and Goodfellow Corporation. She is the volunteer director of customer engagement with GetWITit Pittsburgh.

With more than 20 years of experience in research and master’s degrees in bioengineering and rehabilitation science and technology from the University of Pittsburgh, Tamburo is also an international award-winning professional artist and member of the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh. Currently artist and owner of Erica Tamburo Art, she previously worked in IT at UPMC and in STEM Research Program Development for SmartGurlz.

Snavely served as dean at IUP from 2011 to her retirement in 2021. During her tenure, Snavely achieved a number of priorities, including raising the profile of science and math at IUP and in the region; enabling and enhancing interdisciplinary research for faculty and students; encouraging updates and innovations to the academic programs; securing new instrumentation and refurbishing existing equipment; fundraising; developing programming to support women and emerging female scientists; and initiatives related to IUP’s new science building, John J. and Char Kopchick Hall. Altogether, Snavely completed almost 38 years of work in higher education, both as a faculty member and as an administrator.

As part of her work to establish initiatives that welcome and support talented women and underrepresented students in STEM, Snavely was part of a consortium of western Pennsylvania and northern Ohio universities to promote gender equity for faculty in STEM programs through a $750,000 grant from the National Science Foundation's Advance Program.

One of IUP’s newest programs of study, the environmental engineering degree, was established in her college in 2017.

Simpson’s sneaker art workshop on April 8 is at 4:00 p.m. in room 103 of Kopchick Hall. This workshop is a lesson in chemistry using hip-hop culture and sneaker art. Students will have the opportunity to learn about science and make their own mini-sneaker art keychain as a keepsake.

Simpson earned her bachelor’s degree in chemistry/pre-pharmacy with minors in mathematics and biology at IUP and is a past recipient of the Hilliard Robertson Memorial Scholarship; she also was selected for the IUP Women’s Leadership Award, the Fredrick Douglas Leadership and Engagement Award, and the Edward Brown Leadership Award.

Following her IUP graduation, she relocated to Arizona and studied at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, specializing in herbal medicine and cannabinoid research. In 2021, she became an American Chemical Society bridge fellow and chemistry graduate student at Indiana University. She recently graduated with her master’s in chemistry from IU, and during her time there trailblazed a new way to teach chemistry using hip-hop and sneaker culture, combining elements of her interests, cultural background, and passion for learning and education as an approach to teaching chemistry to students and the general public.

Creating her own research, she designed a series of STEAM sneaker art workshops that incorporate hands-on activities that introduce specialized chemistry and its relationship to the materials used in sneakers.

In 2023, she founded STEAM Sneakerheadz, an education consulting business offering these workshops along with other science outreach initiatives. She is also the author of the free open education resource The Chemistry of Shoe Game: Using Sneaker Culture to Teach Science Technology Engineering Art and Mathematics (STEAM).

In March, she was one of 12 innovators selected as a TEDx Morehouse College speaker. This program features dynamic speakers focused on “For the Culture” for under-represented, marginalized, or disadvantaged groups toward making a better society in Atlanta and beyond.

Her program is sponsored by the IUP Ambassadors, the university’s student-alumni group, as part of the group’s Conversations with Alumni speaker series. Funding for the event has been provided through the Office of Social Equity. The event is also supported by the IUP Office of Multicultural Affairs and Student Success.

Simpson’s program is targeted to IUP students enrolled in teacher education and students in grades seven through 12; registration is limited to 50, and preregistration is required by contacting the Office of Alumni and Constituent Engagement at 724-357-7942 or by registering online.

Artificial Intelligence Summit

IUP’s Kathleen Jones White Writing Center will host an AI Summit from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on April 9; the program is offered in person and online via Zoom.

Events include

  • a “Teaching Writing with AI” workshop with Byna Siegel Finer, professor of English, Undergraduate Writing director, and director of Writing Across the Curriculum at 10:00 a.m.;
  • an open table conversation on AI teaching, research, and scholarship, sponsored by the School of Graduate Studies and Research and hosted by the Writing Center AI Task Force;
  • “AI Empowerment: Leveraging Tools and Apps for Enhanced Teaching” with Veronica Paz, professor of Accounting and Information Systems;
  • “Artificial Intelligence for Graduate Writers: Ethics, Affordances, and Possibilities” with JT Helsop, doctoral student, Writing Center tutor, and AI Task Force member; and
  • “AI-Assisted Research with the IUP Libraries” with Chris Clouser, associate professor and IUP Libraries chair.

View the Zoom link, full schedule, and more information.

Innovation Panel

The Innovation Panel, taking place from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. at the Kovalchick Complex’s Toretti Auditorium on April 10, is a collaboration with the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and features Pittsburgh innovators in hospitality, technology, artificial intelligence, and robotics sharing their insights and experiences on fostering innovation in the workplace.

Panelists are

  • 2002 IUP graduate Mike Embrescia, chief development officer, Carnegie Robotics;
  • Jenny Sharpe, senior program manager, Pittsburgh Robotics Institute;
  • 1991 IUP master’s in higher education graduate Susan Timko, PGH site manager, Microsoft;
  • Todd Zwicker, president, Pittsburgh Brewing Company; and
  • Ellie Ezzell Zytka, senior project manager of strategy, Regional Industrial Development Corporation.

“At IUP’s Office of Strategic Partnerships, we believe in fostering synergistic collaborations to drive innovation and propel progress,” IUP Director of Strategic Partnerships Christina Koren said. “Partnering with the School of Graduate Studies and Research for our inaugural Innovation Panel was a natural choice, as it amplifies our commitment to interdisciplinary excellence. By convening corporate trailblazers from diverse Pittsburgh industries at the forefront of emerging technologies such as AI and robotics, we aim to ignite a dialogue that sparks transformative ideas and cultivates a community of solution drivers. We wanted to draw inspiration and insights that can help build a vibrant rural innovation ecosystem.”

Carnegie Robotics is one of the nation’s first robotics and autonomy technology providers. As a member of the executive leadership team, Embrescia oversees all strategic partnerships, sales, and marketing efforts, and supports the overall business strategy. Prior to Carnegie Robotics, he held executive-level roles in both the tech and real estate sectors, serving as executive director of BOMA Pittsburgh, one of the nation’s largest commercial real estate associations. He was the founder/CEO of an online technology startup and led a successful Pennsylvania State Senate campaign, where he coordinated a massive come-from-behind victory to unseat an incumbent. In addition to his IUP degree, Embrescia earned an MBA from Duquesne University in 2008, with an emphasis on global sustainability. A native of Erie, he is fully involved in his Mt. Lebanon community. He and his wife have two daughters.

Prior to her work with the Pittsburgh Robotics Network, Sharpe worked with Rivers Agile, Venture for America, EKTO VR, AscenderPGH, and Thrival; cofounded Metrecycle LLC; and founded Serving Earth LLC. She is a SHRM certified professional.

Prior to her work with Microsoft, Timko worked in career services, Entertainment Technology Center, at Carnegie Mellon University. For the past 24 years, she has been a self-employed etiquette trainer in the Pittsburgh area. In addition to her IUP degree, she has a bachelor’s degree from Washington & Jefferson College.

Zwicker has 34 years of experience on the brewery supply side. Founded in 1861, the company was once known as Iron City Brewing Company and continues to produce and sell Iron City beer.

Zytka, a policy professional with experience in working with federal, state, local, and international stakeholders, joined RIDC in 2020 as an economic development strategist. As a private nonprofit with an economic development mission, RIDC combines a community service orientation with the entrepreneurial approach and expertise of a private sector business. RIDC partners with community leaders on development projects designed to spark transformational change.

Prior to her work with RIDC, she was a Mexico Security Initiative graduate researcher and worked with the Longhorn Center for Community Engagement. She was a teacher in the San Antonio, Texas, school district. She has her bachelor’s degree from American University and her master’s degree in public affairs, public policy analysis, from the LBJ School of Public Affairs.

Scholars Forum

Student describing their poster at the Scholars ForumThe nineteenth annual Scholars Forum, featuring 168 IUP undergraduate and graduate students and 37 high school students, will be held April 10 from 9:00 a.m. to noon. The Three-Minute Thesis finals will take place during the event, beginning at 11:00 a.m. in Toretti Auditorium.

The Business Case Study Showcase from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. in the Global Executive Room will feature students from IUP’s Eberly College of Business “pitching” solutions to business case studies. 

A total of 17 original artworks will be part of the Scholars Forum Juried Art Exhibition. Displayed in the Mackey Lobby of the KCAC foyer from 9:00 a.m. to noon, this exhibition features artworks created by a select group of art students, juried by faculty members, and is an inspiring reflection of the creative scholarship that takes place at IUP.

A total of 81 research posters will be part of the poster presentation session from 9:00 a.m. to noon on the KCAC arena floor. Posters are from IUP students and a select group of 37 high school students organized by IUP faculty member Holly Travis and mentored by Indiana High School teachers Emily Hixson and Breanna McGhee.

A number of alumni judges will participate in this year’s event.

Posters in the session address a broad variety of research topics:

  • Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Social Media and Psychology
  • Sociopolitical and Health Inquiries
  • Applied Mathematics and Finances
  • Safety Sciences
  • Chemistry, Biochemistry, Physics, and Engineering
  • Applied Archeology
  • Geology, Geography, and Environmental Planning
  • Biological Research

Concurrent podium presentation sessions for the day begin at 9:00 a.m. with presentations on

  • education and communications topics from 9:00 a.m. to 10:20 a.m. in Toretti Auditorium; 
  • natural sciences and mathematics topics from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. in conference room 7; and
  • business and economics topics from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. in conference room 4.

Presentation sessions from 10:00 to 11:40 a.m. are

  • topics in the arts and humanities in conference room 9;
  • topics in health and human services in conference room 8;
  • topics on natural sciences and mathematics in conference room 6; and
  • topics on business and economics in conference room 5.

Presentations on business and economics will also take place from 10:00 to 11:20 a.m. in conference room 3.

The annual Three-Minute Thesis competition is an event for graduate students to present their original scholarship to a panel of judges in just three minutes with the aid of only one static PowerPoint slide as a visual aid.

Four graduate students have advanced through the preliminary competitions to be part of the final competition:

  • Laura Broughton, an applied archaeology master’s student, presenting “Pittsburgh’s Chinatown: A Study of Chinese Diaspora Archaeology in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania”
  • Morgan Buterbaugh, an applied mathematics master’s student, presenting “Exploring Generated Music from a Song Seed: Taylor Swift’s Next Hit?”
  • Emma Lashley, an applied archaeology master’s student, presenting “Ground Penetrating Radar and Photogrammetry Survey of Laurel Hill Cemetery; An African American Cemetery in Western Pennsylvania”
  • Brian Sateriale, a student in the Literature and Criticism doctoral program, presenting “Androgynism: Recognition of Hieros Gamos—the Masculine-Feminine Sacred Union—Influence in Literature and Film of the 20th and 21st Centuries”

Research awards and a number of workshops about research success have been scheduled throughout the week. A complete schedule of Research Appreciation Week events is on the IUP website.

In 2022, IUP was designated as a Doctoral University–High Research Activity (R2) by the National Center for Postsecondary Research’s Carnegie Classification in recognition of its commitment to research and student success.

IUP is one of only two public universities in Pennsylvania and one of only 96 public universities with this ranking in the United States. More than 3,900 colleges and universities are included in the ranking system.