Winners of York's undergraduate research, creative accomplishments announced

Female student standing in front of a whiteboard.

Thy Nguyen, a sophomore majoring in behavioral health, is one of the winners of this year’s University Libraries Undergraduate Research Awards.

Credit: Jess Price

YORK, Pa. — The Penn State York 2024 Exhibition of Undergraduate Research and Creative Accomplishments took place on April 12 and featured 20 projects authored by 42 students. Representatives from the Lee R. Glatfelter library selected five winning projects based on: 

  • Showcasing the research process and strategies 

  • Selecting sources that contribute to the argument and ideas 

  • Including proper citations for quotes, images, and other content displayed 

Each winning student receives a $100 award. The winners are: 

Thy Nguyen 

“A Literature Review on Breakfast Skipping Influences on Adolescent Development” 

  • Topic Area: Biobehavioral Health 

  • Faculty Mentor: Sukhdeep Gill, professor of human development and family studies 

Abstract: Breakfast skipping is an increasingly common behavior in adolescents across various cultural backgrounds. Since puberty and rapid physical, cognitive, and socioemotional growth occur during the adolescent life stage, adequate nutrient intake and behaviors that promote healthy eating become more necessary. Encouraging such dietary behaviors early can prevent the onset of adverse health conditions during and after adolescence to maximize developmental potential. A literature review was conducted on nine peer-reviewed journal articles to explore correlations between breakfast skipping and physical, cognitive, and socioemotional development in adolescents; parental and pubertal factors that attempt to explain the behavior; dietary interventions; and social implications for parents, school officials and health educators. 

Michael Kern 

“Are Plant-Based Milk Options Healthier than Cow’s Milk?” 

  • Topic Area: Biology 

  • Faculty Mentor: Emily Blanke, assistant teaching professor in biology 

Abstract: Plant-based food alternatives are increasing in popularity due to health purposes and trend diets. Specifically, plant-based milk alternatives have become popular, but are they healthier? “Healthy” is a subjective term and dependent on an individual’s needs. For this study, we define healthy food as having a high-protein and low-fat-and-sugar content. We hypothesize that cow’s milk will contain the highest amount of protein and least fat and sugar compared to oat and almond milk. This study utilized indicator tests to determine which milk was the “healthiest” by quantifying protein and glucose concentrations, relative fat, and starch concentrations in three popular milks purchased at a local supermarket: cow, almond, and oat. The Bradford assay and Benedict’s solution in combination with spectrophotometry measured protein and glucose content, respectively. Starch and fat were evaluated with qualitative iodine and brown paper bag indicator tests. Almond milk (739.4 mg/mL) had the highest glucose concentration, followed by cow’s milk (31.5 mg/mL), then oat milk (-289.0 mg/mL). All samples had a negative protein concentration and were inconclusive. The iodine indicator showed a distinct presence of starch in oat milk, slight presence in almond milk, and an absence in cow’s milk. Brown paper bag tests showed almond with the least fat, then cow, and oat with the darkest ring presence. Overall, cow milk presented low glucose and fat with no starch presence, making it the healthiest milk option despite the lack of protein evidence. 

Sydney Hettinger 

“The Effects of Diet on Microbial Gut Composition in the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach (Gromphadorhina portentosa)” 

  • Topic Area: Biology 

  • Authors: Sydney Hettinger, Sarah Hughes and Anne Vardo-Zalik 

  • Faculty Mentor: Anne Vardo-Zalik, associate professor of biology 

Abstract: The composition of the gut microbiome is an important indicator of health and fitness. The Madagascar hissing cockroach (Gromphadorhina portentosa) and its gut composition has been minimally studied, though the closely related American hissing cockroach, Periplanta americana, has been well-documented. The focus of this study was to determine how diet affects the gut microbiota of the Madagascar hissing cockroaches. Two groups of cockroaches were fed separate diets containing fruits and veggies or fruits, veggies, and dog food. The preliminary results indicate that, while diet did affect gut microbiome composition, there is high variation between individual cockroach guts, irrespective of treatment.

Allison Lonkart 

“Is Ultra-Processed Food Inducing Breast Cancer?” 

  • Topic Area: Biology 

  • Authors: Allison Lonkart and Charles James 

  • Faculty Mentor: Charles James, adjunct lecturer in biology 

Abstract: Cancer diagnoses are on the rise, not just in the United States but worldwide. A considerable amount of research has been dedicated to identifying lifestyle choices that influence whether an individual develops cancer. However, one lifestyle choice for which research is lacking involves the amount of ultra-processed food (UPF) in one’s diet. Increases in UPF consumption, especially in the United States, show a correlation with increased incidence of cancer. This review examines published studies in which UPF consumption has been analyzed with respect to cancer incidence, with particular emphasis on UPF associations with breast cancer. A literature review was conducted using a progressive filtering process of PubMed searches. A positive correlation between breast cancer incidence and elevated levels of dietary UPF was indicated by two of the studies reviewed. However, the results of the literature review are inconclusive because of inconsistencies in the approaches used to evaluate and categorize UPF consumption. Nonetheless, the findings indicate there is a need for additional study of relationships between dietary UPF and cancer incidence, the results of which could lead to dietary recommendations for reducing the impact one’s UPF eating habits on the occurrence of cancer.

Alexandria Luckenbaugh 

“The Effect of Single Parent Families on Adolescent Delinquent Behavior” 

  • Topic Area: Human Development and Family Studies 

  • Author: Alexandria Luckenbaugh 

  • Faculty Mentor: Sukhdeep Gill, professor of human development and family studies 

Abstract: Adolescence is a period of adaptation that stimulates many changes in an individual’s behavior as well as family relationships. As adolescents begin to explore and form their identities, they are more likely to engage in risky and delinquent behaviors, which is defined as any illegal behavior detrimental to the development of an adolescent. As family constellations continue to diverge from the nuclear family norm and rates of single parenthood rise, it’s important to examine the research literature on if and how these changing family patterns affect adolescents’ delinquent behavior. The goal of this review is to garner an understanding of how an adolescents’ involvement in a single parent family structure is associated, if at all, with their delinquent behavior. A systematic search of articles covering relevant themes was conducted, yielding articles published in the last five years to ensure information is applicable to the current state of affairs. This review revealed that more than single parent family status, familial support and warmth as well as family structure are associated with higher incidence of delinquency during adolescent years. These findings are important for family workers to understand when working with delinquent adolescents.

For more information about the Exhibition of Undergraduate Research and Creative Accomplishments, please contact Robert Farrell, director of academic affairs and professor of biology at Penn State York, at [email protected]. For information on the awards, please contact Barb Eshbach, head librarian at the Lee R. Glatfelter Library on campus, at [email protected]