William O'Brien First-Year Research Prizes

Will O’Brien was a member of the Class of 2006 who was tragically killed in the summer after his first year here at St. Lawrence.  Will loved his year at SLU, and thanks to the generosity of his family and their friends, we are able to fund a series of prizes for research done in spring First-Year Seminar courses.
 
Each year, we select three students whose research in their FYS best reflects exemplary achievement of the goals of the FYS.  Those three students will receive cash awards and typically will have the opportunity to present their research to the campus community at the Honors Reception during Laurentian Weekend in the fall of their sophomore year. Click here to view this year's schedule. This year, we have also selected four honorable mentions.

Congratulations to the William O'Brien FYS Research Prize winners from the Class of 2024:

First Place: Hailey Quintavalle
    "What Makes SLU Students Thrive"
     FYS - “STEM Apprenticeship"
              with Adam Hill

Second Place: Lily Kasperek
     "Morbidity and Morality: In Support of the Right to Voluntary Active Euthanasia"
     FYS - “The Good Place and the Good Life"
              with Jeff Maynes

Third Place: Kyla Wilson
     "The United Nations’ Fight to Improve Maternal Health: Is It Enough?"
     FYS – “International Relations in Action: Simulating Conflict and Cooperation in World Politics”
              with Mert Kartal

Honorable Mention: Olivia Bernier
     "Interspecific Competition Between Red and Gray Squirrels and Red Fox and Coyote in the North Country"
     FYS – “STEM Apprenticeship”
              with Adam Hill

Honorable Mention: Alexandra Pendo
     "Necromancy in the Middle Ages: The Art’s Elements, Practices, and Views"
     FYS – “Magic in the Middle Ages”
              with John Payne

Honorable Mention: Marika Stauring
     "Touch Starvation, COVID-19, and Pets: An Exploration of Supplementary Biological Interaction in Isolation"
     FYS – “Humans and Other Animals”
              with Wendi Haugh

Honorable Mention: Christopher Urban
     "Politics and Social Media"
     FYS – “Where Wizards Stay Up Late: Who Built the Internet and Why”
              with Paul Doty

 

photo of Quintavalle

First Place: Hailey Quintavalle "What Makes SLU Students Thrive"

"My research project, What Makes SLU Students Thrive, was developed through my combined interests of statistics and psychology. The project focused on first-year students here at St. Lawrence University and used statistics to determine which groups thrive the most, whether that is academically, socially, or mentally. Overall, my research discovered that there are very little differences in the levels of thriving between different groups." 

photo of Kasperek

Second Place: Lily Kasperek "Morbidity and Morality: In Support of the Right to Voluntary Active Euthanasia"

"I was in the ethics-centered First-Year Seminar, “The Good Place and the Good Life” with Prof. Jeff Maynes. For our research project, we were tasked with answering a moral question of our choosing. I decided to answer the question of whether or not voluntary-active euthanasia is morally permissible or not. It was most important to make the distinction of what I am actually arguing, as there are several different types of euthanasia. (voluntary, involuntary, active, passive, etc.) In order to come to my answer, it was important to take all sides of the argument into account. I also made sure to make my final research question as specific as possible to make it easier to answer. While I acknowledge that my topic was quite morbid, it is a topic I found very interesting, and a topic I knew would have a great body of literature surrounding it. From my research, I concluded that voluntary-active euthanasia is permissible if one so chooses!"

photo of Wilson

Third Place: Kyla Wilson "The United Nations’ Fight to Improve Maternal Health: Is It Enough?"

"For my FYS research project, I studied how the United Nations is combating maternal mortality rates with a case study focusing on maternal health in Ghana. Through my research, I learned about the extreme inequities people around the world face, especially those in rural regions, when it comes to having access to obstetric care. The World Health Organization estimates that 98% of all maternal deaths can be prevented, so I focused my research on what is still causing hundreds of preventable maternal deaths every day. There is much work to be done, but every step brings us closer to the day when no person has to die from a preventable maternal death."

 

photo of Bernier

Honorable Mention: Olivia Bernier "Interspecific Competition Between Red and Gray Squirrels and Red Fox and Coyote in the North Country"

"I really enjoyed working with Professor Barthelmess on my research project. Conducting research was an amazing experience because it allowed me to spend time learning about topics that interest me." 

photo of Pendo

Honorable Mention: Alexandra Pendo "Necromancy in the Middle Ages: The Art’s Elements, Practices, and Views"

"“Necromancy in the Middle Ages: The Art’s Elements, Practices and Views,” was a research project about the art of necromancy and its perceptions in Medieval society. This project examined several elements of this tradition, including the purposes for practicing it, what went into said practice, and its relation to demons and Christian ideologies. This presentation was inspired by an interest in necromantic magic and its expansiveness as a forbidden, occult practice." 

photo of Stauring

Honorable Mention: Marika Stauring "Touch Starvation, COVID-19, and Pets: An Exploration of Supplementary Biological Interaction in Isolation"

"My project was focused around the relationship of humans and their pets (specifically dogs) and how the nature of that relationship changed during COVID-19 as well as the physical health benefits of that relationship that stayed consistent both prior to and during the pandemic. I explored the physical and mental health benefits of owning and interacting with animals, as well as some potential disadvantages that would arise as society came out of the effects of COVID-19. In addition, I also explored the effects of human-animal interactions from the perspective of the animals, and how they would experience the change back to “normal” post-pandemic. My findings concluded that the unequal power distribution in the human-dog relationship typically results in the human seeking comfort at the expense of the dog’s mental health, however this is not always the case, and the relationship between a human and their animal is not something that can be generalized by a singular research project."

photo of Urban

Honorable Mention: Christopher Urban "Politics and Social Media"

"My FYS politics and social media project was certainly something I am proud of because the effort and time I put into it was the end result that I wanted. I have always had an interest in these two relevant topics (politics and social media) so there was a lot of research to be performed on that matter. I learned a lot about research methods and tailoring arguments towards your true opinion. Lastly, I want to thank my professor Paul Doty for a very entertaining and educational freshman curriculum that made me feel engaged with my interests."