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Students present wide variety of projects during first-ever Digital Research Week

Liberty University’s annual Research Week, held April 13-17, moved to a virtual format for the first time due to COVID-19 gathering restrictions.

While some Virginia colleges decided to cancel their annual research symposiums altogether and some simplified their events by just having students submit their work, staff at Liberty’s Center for Research & Scholarship wanted to provide a full experience and follow through with presenting awards.

“We were able to convert our week to a digital format and keep it as a competitive event, where all presentations were judged by faculty and awards were given out,” said Darren Wu, associate director for the center. “We wanted to support our students and give them a chance to present their hard work.”

Rebeca Rodriguez with her first-place Basic Undergrad Oral Presentation

Wu said the decision was made with input from the students. When all Liberty classes were moved online in compliance with state COVID-19 laws, the center created an online poll to gauge students’ level of interest in carrying on with the event virtually — and an overwhelming majority of students requested it.

“Research Week 2020 was a tremendous success due to the growing interest of our student body in research, scholarship, and creative activity,” Wu said. “We had a total of 160 presentations (videos and other media) submitted by graduate and undergraduate students representing 12 different schools and colleges and 65 different majors/programs this year.”

Wu said that every category was well represented by both undergraduate and graduate students: Poster, Oral, Juried Arts, Three-Minute Thesis, and Performing Arts.

Students submitted their work online and it was judged by 50 faculty judge volunteers (see list of first-place winners below). Wu has been working with the Jerry Falwell Library to post videos of the presentations, with the students’ permission, to the Scholars Crossing site, the university’s institutional repository.

“We are grateful for the support of our volunteer faculty judges, including several senior academic leaders, which demonstrates the institutions’ commitment to investing in our students and their academic achievements,” Wu said.

Due to this year’s outstanding participation, in spite of students being scattered due to COVID-19 concerns, he said that next year’s event will likely be even larger.

“We anticipate expanding Research Week 2021 based on being able to offer this fully digital venue this year,” Wu said. “For example, students in Liberty University Online Programs have always been able to participate in the oral presentation category, but we will likely open up poster presentations to online students based on our learning experience this year.”

Wu is grateful that Liberty’s administration has remained steadfast throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in helping students continue to pursue academic excellence.

“Liberty University is a great Christian institution capable of adjusting to challenges quickly in order to continue encouraging our students to excel in their academics.”


Research Week 2020 first-place winners

 (View the full list of winners)

Poster Presentations


  • Elisabeth Campbell – applied, ASCVD Risk Estimator Integration into an EMR
  • Heather Birkeland – creative, “Hollow” – an illustrative book
  • Casey Olson, Kristopher Burke, and Mai Chi Nguyen – textual or investigative, Bridging the Terminological Gap on Verbal Aspect in Koine Greek and Linguistics
  • Olufunmilayo Abidemi Babarinde and Paul West Okojie – theoretical, Stress and Resilience among Healthcare Professionals: A Synthesized Literature Review


  • Carson Farmer – applied, Soft Robotics for Assisting People with Parkinson’s Tremor Amelia Wickham, Ashton Young, Cara Arrasmith, Jessica Welty, Jonathan Tenerovich, and Nathanael Lamb – basic, Identification of Hepatopancreatic Parasites Afflicting Crayfish and Associated Snails in Local Virginia Streams
  • Rebecca Pickard – creative and artistic, “There is Nothing Surprising in This”: A Cento for the Cetologist
  • Abigail Prejean, Alex Donley, Emily Renie, and Parker Williams – textual or investigative, Tension over Terms: Root, Stem, and Affix in Greek and Hebrew project
  • Kaitlynn Gaebe, Megan Pizzo – theoretical proposal, Examination of Gamma-Glutamyl-Transferase (GGT) Production in Crayfish Hepatopancreas Tissue


Oral Presentations


  • Rich Jensen – applied, “The Relationship Between Teachers’ Psychological Capital and Caring School Leadership and Enabling School project,”
  • Heather Birkeland – creative and artistic, “Hollow”-an illustrative book
  • Margo Nicholas – textual or investigative, Consent to be Born: Provisional 4-D ultrasounds as part of informed consent preceding abortion can potentially give the fetus its legal human right to life
  • Samantha Wilkins-Copeland – theoretical proposal,  Preventing Polypharmacy Amongst the Elderly in an Acute Care Setting Through the Integration of the Deprescribing Tools START, STOPP, and Beers Criteria


  • Daniel Serban and Nathanael Gentry – applied, TeX Math Here: A Versatile Equation and Notation Composition Tool
  • Rebeca Rodriguez – basic, Endocytic Downregulation of the Yeast Glucose Receptor Rgt2
  • Elisa Blakely – creative and artistic, Slip Decorating Techniques on Ceramics
  • Jonathan Cook – textual or investigative, Creation, Time and Time in the Early Church Fathers: Looking to the Early Church Fathers for Guidance in the Genesis Debate
  • Cameron Andrews – theoretical proposal, All the Feels: Leveraging Emotional Intelligence for Human Resource Development

Three-minute Thesis


  • Christina Minotti, Walking through Smoke


  • Abigail Brewer, A New Theory of Communication: Privacy Surrender for Security Theory (PSST)


Juried Arts

  • 2-D: Abigail Sewell, Eris Latentes – Character Concept
  • 3-D: Elise Blakely, Lamp of My Life
  • Graphic design: Stephanie Deason’s Peelin’ Good

Performing Arts

  • Jayla Arthur, “Brother Baby” film

People’s Choice 

  • Hayley Glover, 3-D Quilted Metal Animal
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