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Oakland University students take home six awards at annual Sigma Xi conference

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December 02, 2022


Oakland University students received a total of six awards — the most of any other university in attendance — at the inaugural International Forum on Research Excellence (IFoRE), which took place November 3-6 in Alexandria, Va.

“The Oakland University chapter of Sigma Xi is very proud to send our talented students to present their research at a national conference, which for many is their first conference experience,” said Dr. Sarah Hosch, Sigma Xi OU chapter president. “Our science faculty’s successful acquisition of national funding and strong mentorship of both undergraduate and graduate students is instrumental in training competitive researchers. This is evidenced by our consistent leadership and award winners at the Sigma Xi annual conference over the last five years.”
Developed as a successor to Sigma Xi’s Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference, IFoRE was attended by over 250 high school, undergraduate, and graduate students from across the nation, who presented their research in oral and poster format, both in-person and virtually. The theme for the 2022 conference was “Science Convergence in and Inclusive and Diverse World.”

The inaugural conference also featured reimagined components of past conferences, including in-person and live-streamed plenary sessions; deep dive conversations with keynote speakers; topical sessions on research impact and STEM education; workshops, professional development, and networking opportunities; a college, graduate school, and jobs fair; a STEM Art and Film Festival; and Sigma Xi’s annual business meeting and assembly of delegates.
With support from the Oakland University Chapter of Sigma Xi, the Office of the President, the Office of the Provost, the Eye Research Institute, the Center for Biomedical Research, and the College of Arts and Sciences, 14 OU students were able to participate in this year’s conference — four online and 10 in-person — along with Special Lecturer Sandra Troxell-Smith, who attended as a faculty mentor.

The students, who represented a diverse field of disciplines — including biochemistry, biology, biomedical sciences, and engineering and computer sciences — were able to share their research during the Student Summit portion of the conference. They also set a new record for the most OU students invited to give oral presentations.
A judging committee of Sigma Xi members evaluated the in-person presenters on their scientific thoughts, methods, and communication skills. Several OU students were recognized with awards, including:
· Siobhan Branfield, a graduate student who received the Graduate Interdisciplinary Poster Presentation Award in Physiology and Immunology (Mentor: Dr. Valance Washington);
· Yasmeen Hassan, an undergraduate student who received the Interdisciplinary Oral Presentation Award in Biology and Biotechnology (Mentor: Dr. Dao-Qi Zhang);
· Cody Howe, a graduate student who received the Best Overall Graduate Oral Presentation Award (Mentor: Dr. Sang Rhee);
· Morgan Markel, a graduate student who received the Graduate Interdisciplinary Poster Presentation Award in Microbiology and Molecular Biology (Mentor: Dr. Gerard Madlambayan);
· Javier Menendez, a graduate student who received the Interdisciplinary Poster Award and Second Place Student Voting Poster Award (Mentor: Dr. Valance Washington).

“It was a great opportunity to share my research and receive feedback from top scholars in my area of interest,” Markel said. “Traveling and spending time with my peers outside of school was an incredible experience, and I built lasting relationships with others excited about science! I am so thankful for the Sigma Xi support.”
Oakland University Sigma Xi member Stephanie Castro-Marquez also brought home an award from the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) National Diversity in STEM Conference, which was held October 27-29 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Castro-Marquez was mentored by Dr. Taras Oleksyk.

The goal of SACNAS is to increase the number of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in science research, leadership, and teaching careers at all levels.

“It’s always great to know that, not only are you doing a good job, but in my case I also got to present my research in my home, Puerto Rico,” Castro-Marquez said. “It’s always great to bring back the story of what you’re working on to the people you grew up with, and get them to know what other research we’re doing for the island, even though we are outside of the island. It’s always a great experience to be able to share our research.”
The Oakland University Office of the Provost, College of Arts and Sciences, School of Engineering and Computer Science, and the Oakland University chapter of Sigma Xi provided funding for students to attend and present at SACNAS.
About Sigma Xi at Oakland University

Founded in 1964, Oakland University’s Sigma Xi chapter is nationally ranked for excellence in recognition of chapter activities and active members. Its mission is to enhance the health of the research enterprise, foster integrity in science and engineering, and promote public understanding of science for the purpose of improving the human condition.
To learn more about OU’s Sigma Xi chapter, email Dr. Hosch at or visit


Sean Delaney, Communciations and Marketing, (248) 370-3139

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