Stephen F. Austin State University’s Office of Research and Graduate Studies have announced the recipients of its 2021 Graduate Research Conference awards.

“We were very proud at the quality of work presented during this year’s Graduate Research Conference,” said Dr. Pauline Sampson, dean of SFA’s Office of Research and Graduate Studies. “All participants worked so hard, in especially trying times, to create thoughtful pieces that add much to their respective fields.”

Forty-eight graduate students presented during this year’s GRC, which was held virtually. The conference began in 2013 as an event sponsored by the College of Liberal and Applied Arts. In 2016, it became a university-wide conference open to all SFA graduate students.

“We aim for this event to celebrate our graduate students’ research and creative work,” said Dr. Sarah Savoy, an associate professor in SFA’s Department of Psychology and GRC co-coordinator. “Most importantly, it builds students’ confidence in public speaking and thinking on their feet.”

Best Paper
Lenora Perkins, a Corpus Christi native and student in the College of Sciences and Mathematics’ Department of Geology, won best paper for her piece, “Using Electrical Methods and Traditional Survey Techniques to Delineate Potential Karst Features Along FM 2185, Culberson County, Texas.”

The paper was an excerpt from her master’s thesis. Her Department of Geology advisors were Dr. Wesley Brown, chair; and Dr. Kevin Stafford, associate professor.

“I frequently struggle with imposter syndrome,” Perkins said, “So, all the doubts that I have about my talent as a scientist, as a researcher, and my skills as a writer are all silenced by this award.”

In her research, Perkins used electrical resistivity methods, as well as traditional survey techniques, to search for karst features that have the potential to become problematic geohazards along the proposed route of FM 2185 in Culberson County, Texas. Examples of such karst features include sinkholes, solution-widened fractures and caves. The data she collected can prove essential in geohazard mitigation along FM 2185 and the improvement of roadway design.

“I have always believed that presenting research at conferences is beneficial to students because it allows us to work on our presentation skills, provides an opportunity to grow our network and allows us to share our research with those not in our field,” Perkins said. “It is a true talent and necessary skill to be able to convey our research to other people and for them to understand us.”

Best Poster
Ashley Wahlberg, a Houston native and student in the Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture, won best poster for her dissertation, “Mechanisms of Establishment of the Non-Native Brown Widow Spider (Latrodectus geometricus) into a Native Spider Community.”

Her advisor was Dr. Christopher M. Schalk, assistant professor of forest wildlife management.

“Winning this award has given me satisfaction in knowing that my hard work is paying off,” Wahlberg said. “I have a full-time job on top of my research and classes, and it gets to be overwhelming at times.”

Wahlberg’s dissertation and the poster she created for it discusses how the non-native brown widow spider fits into the local spider community. Specifically, she explores the mechanisms that allowed the brown widow to establish itself in East Texas and how its presence affects native species.

“The GRC is a great place for faculty members from all across the university to see what research is being done in other departments,” Wahlberg said. “It also provides students a place to practice presenting in a formal setting and receiving feedback from students and advisors, which is very helpful when preparing to attend larger conferences.”

To view all 2021 GRC presentations, visit sfasu.edu/grc2021.