Orange Alert

Syracuse Triumphs at ACC ‘Meeting of the Minds’ Conference

A&S students travel to NC State for three-day academic showcase

May 8, 2015, by Rob Enslin

Triple major Kristin Weeks '15 is one of A&S' most decorated seniors.
Triple major Kristin Weeks '15 is one of A&S' most decorated seniors.

Syracuse University was on display at the 10th annual Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Meeting of the Minds (MOM) Conference, recently held at North Carolina State University.

Seven undergraduates, all with ties to the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S), produced a variety of oral presentations, posters, models, and exhibits. Their trip was organized by the University’s Center for Fellowship and Scholarship Advising (CFSA).

The MOM Conference highlights original research and creative scholarship taking place at institutions across the ACC. Judith O’Rourke ’75, G’10, who co-directs CFSA with Kate Hanson, says MOM also represents the power and synergy that exists between academics and athletics.

“Our students were an extraordinary group, all committed to pursuing their interests and passions in different fields of study,” she says. “Their presentations showcased the breadth and depth of a Syracuse education.”

The Syracuse delegates were as follows:

• Alexandria Aruck ’16, a biology major (A&S): “Retinal blindness in African Clawed Frogs”

• Justin Elkhechen ’15, a biochemistry major (A&S): “Shape memory polymers and cancer therapies”

• Nicole Gorny ’15, a dual major in Spanish (A&S) and newspaper & online journalism (Newhouse School of Public Communications): “A street paper project with the homeless or near homeless”

• Matthew Kanzler ’15, a double major in biology and neuroscience (A&S): “Seizure regulation therapies”

• Tyler Mitchell ’15, a senior political science major (A&S and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs): “Globalization of war and constitutional protections in the United States of America”

• Kris Murray ’15, a biochemistry major (A&S): “Gene profiling of Asparagine Synthetase in Hybrid Poplar”

• Kristin Weeks ’15, a triple major in biology (A&S), sociology (A&S and Maxwell), and Political Science (A&S and Maxwell): “Climate change and ecosystems at the Global Environment Facility”

Biochemistry major Kris Murray '15 studies integrated biomedical sciences.
Biochemistry major Kris Murray '15 studies integrated biomedical sciences.
Like O’Rourke, Hanna Richardson feels the University made a strong showing.

“These students are some of our best ambassadors,” says Richardson, associate deputy director of The Renée Crown University Honors Program. “It was great seeing them engage with their peers at other ACC institutions. I also enjoyed spending time with them in ways I normally don’t—traveling, sharing meals and conversation.”

Given that all 15 ACC institutions sent, on average, a half-dozen undergraduates, the weekend program had no shortage of brainpower. Students participated in academic presentations, campus tours, and social events. They also heard from and mingled with such NC State luminaries as Chancellor Randy Woodson, Vice Chancellor Mike Mullen, and architect Marvin Malecha.

Kanzler called the experience “engaging and provocative.”

“MOM enabled me to enhance my poster presentation skills in the company of my peers,” says the Penfield, N.Y., resident, whose research was supervised by James and Sandra Hewett, associate professor of biology and the Beverly Petterson Professor of Neuroscience, respectively, in A&S. “The variety of presentations was quite diverse and exposed me to many new subjects and ideas.”

Adds Sandra: “Being chosen to participate at the MOM Conference was such an honor for Matt and was a testament to his hard work in the classroom and laboratory. … These kinds of professional development opportunities are critical because students learn how to present [research] in a safe, supportive environment. The process can be highly personal and public at the same time.” 

Murray’s research advisor, Heather Coleman, echoes these sentiments. “I’ve had the pleasure of watching Kris evolve as a researcher, while he worked on his honors thesis in my lab,” says Coleman, assistant professor of biology. “His participation at MOM, along with a recent Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation, shows a promising trajectory of a career in science.”

Syracuse will host next year’s MOM Conference. Prospective attendees may submit research in the form of lab experiments; original computer and Web applications; theoretical and comparative analyses; interviews and surveys; art and sculpture displays; video and film production; music, dance, and theater performance; and architecture and design.

CFSA provides information, advising, and support for graduate and undergraduate students interested in applying for nationally competitive fellowships and scholarships. More information is available at

Media Contact

Rob Enslin