Five outstanding students from Virginia Tech were selected to present their research projects at the Atlantic Coast Conference’s (ACC) Meeting of the Minds virtual conference, hosted by UNC-Chapel Hill April 9-11.

Each student gave an eight-minute presentation or short three-minute speed talk outlining their research. These students come from various backgrounds and expertise in research, but unite in how their research projects seek to benefit the greater good for their communities in solving real-world problems.

Adam Luftglass, a senior majoring in materials science and engineering and minoring in biomedical engineering, has researched a valuable solution to helping the athletic community. His research project, titled "The Impact of Standardized Footwear on Load and Load Symmetry," helps clinicians acquire accurate data when determining the right time for athletes to return to physical activity after an injury as well as reducing further injury.

“Conducting this research has allowed me to gain hands-on experience with aspects of engineering that I had learned in the classroom,” said Luftglass. “I have also been able to gain communication skills by speaking at multiple conferences and meeting individuals in and out of my field that has helped me come closer to my goal of working in the athletic footwear industry, creating the next generation of athletic equipment.”

Research has played a major role in Luftglass’ collegiate experience and has led to great achievements at Virginia Tech. Research has opened doors to internship opportunities for him, especially in his current role at BOA Technology in its performance fit laboratory.

“I am grateful to my professor and sponsor Dr. Robin Queen, who has been an amazing mentor to me throughout my research,” said Luftglass. “I have also benefited greatly from working directly with graduate students in the Granata Lab, and as a result, I was accepted into the accelerated master’s program in biomedical engineering, which has allowed me to begin my master’s degree at Virginia Tech while simultaneously finishing my senior year.”

Virginia Tech undergraduate researchers are no strangers to helping communities. Christine Faunce, a senior double majoring in experimental neuroscience and medicinal chemistry with a minor in Spanish, seeks to use her research in genetic mutation to bring hope to communities near Appalachia that suffer from substance abuse. She studies the connection between substance abuse and genetic mutation by utilizing a mouse model that carries the humanized mutation to examine both its behavior and molecular elements.

“The project has elucidated a novel understanding of the mechanisms by which the addictive properties of nicotine might manifest in the brain with populations carrying this genetic mutation,” Faunce said.

Although the conference was virtual this year, Faunce enjoyed meeting and connecting with other students in the field of research and learning from their perspectives.

“During my presentation, I had a student from UNC researching English literature ask me really thought-provoking questions about my project, and it led to a very fruitful discussion,” said Faunce. “I think multidisciplinary conferences, such as the ACC Meeting of the Minds, are great because they have really helped my science communication skills and allowed me to present to a wide range of audience members.”

Faunce’s passion for using her skills in research to assist communities in need is inspiring and imperative to those suffering from substance abuse. “Addiction is a pervasive and costly epidemic across the United States, and the available treatments do not fit the need of the ailing population,” Faunce says, “I believe that investigations into the underlying molecular mechanisms that may be causing addiction behaviors can lead to novel, and, hopefully, more effective therapeutic options.”

This experience in research has encouraged Faunce to pursue a career in scientific research. The support from her research mentor Matthew Buczynski and the Buczynski-Gregus Lab team have been instrumental in her experience as an undergraduate researcher.

The ACC Meeting of the Minds conference is held each spring and is hosted by one of the 15 ACC member schools. The conference is funded in part by revenue from athletic events and celebrates undergraduate research and provides an opportunity for sharing ideas and collaboration.

Early each spring, Virginia Tech students apply to participate in the conference and are selected based on their ability to present their work to a broad audience and to positively represent the university. For more information about applying to present at a future Meeting of the Minds conference, please visit the webpage.

— Written by Abby Mercatoris