Senior Capstone Experience

Biology majors fulfill the requirement for the Senior Capstone Experience in one of two ways—by completing an independent laboratory or field research project, or by writing an in-depth scientific monograph. Both options are under the direction of a faculty member.

Students begin thinking about their SCE well before the senior year. Faculty in the department assist students in developing themes for projects during a Biology Junior Seminar, and students are encouraged to review their ideas with faculty members.

As part of a credit-bearing SCE course, seniors are guided through the SCE process by a faculty advisor. The process typically involves discussion of primary and secondary scientific literature in the area of biology chosen by the individual student. At the conclusion of the course, the student shares their work as a written report. Additionally, the student presents their findings at a poster session open to the college community.

Recent SCE Topics

Bryanna Rupprecht ('20) Problem-Based Learning in Science Education: A Case Study Approach to the One Environmental Health Hypothesis.

Adrienne Chase ('20) The Devastating Effects of Chemotherapeutic Treatment on Fertility of Cancer Patients.

Sabrina Jenkins ('19) Stenting as a Treatment for Coarctation of the Aorta in Pediatric Patients.

Larisa Prezioso ('19) Toxicological Consequences of Plastics on Marine Ecosystems and an Exploration of Biodegradable Alternatives.

Kevin Day ('18) Emaciation Protocol and Refeeding in Exotic Veterinary Medicine.

Adam Lanphear ('18) Macrophages and Their Subsets in Mammalian Lung Tissue.

Mingyi Zhu ('18) Fun30’s function in DNA damage repair.


Nina Black ('20) The Effect of Heavy Metal Pollution on Quality of Bird Song

Alexandria Hegeman ('20) The Significance of NUP170 in Delayed Cellular Senescence of Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

Kaitlyn Marino ('19) Neuronal and Behavioral Outcomes Following Hypoxia Induced Ischemia in Danio rerio Pretreated with Ibuprofen.

Amanda Gabriel ('19) The Effects of Nicotine and Cinnamaldehyde Vapor on Drosophila melanogaster Brain Hemisphere Area.

Amanda Ault ('18) The Effect of Atrazine on the Larval Development of Crassostrea virginica, the Eastern Oyster.

Nathan Simmons ('18) Species Diversity of Wood Boring Beetles.


Recent SCE Highlights

Eric Youtube Video Screenshot

Eric Gwadz: The Effect of Nicotine on Visual Developmnent: A Research Study Through Zebrafish

May 2022

The usage of electronic nicotine delivery devices (ENDS) has increased in popularity over recent years. Studies in animals indicate that nicotine exposure of a fetus has been linked to potential birth defects, but there is not conclusive evidence on the potential harm of ENDS during pregnancy in humans. In this study, larval zebrafish were chronically exposed to nicotine during most of the visual development window. Though the effects of nicotine on the optokinetic response, length, eye diameter and survival rate of zebrafish were non-significant, substantial negative trends were observed


Nathaniel Braddock: Zombie Ants! Fungal Parasitism and Mechanisms of Behavior Manipulation

May 2022

The fungal parasite Ophiocordyceps unilateralis manipulates the behavior of Camponotus ants for their own benefit. Infection causes muscle atrophy and novel behaviors such as full body tremors, phototaxis, and synchronized “death grip” biting, all of which help position the ant in ideal environmental conditions for fungal growth. These changes are due to fungal invasion of the ant’s head and brain, but the mechanism is not fully understood. Understanding the mechanism has impacts in ecological theory as well as commercial impacts in the drug and cosmetics industries.

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Madison Parker: The Effects of Estrogen on the ACL and its Relationship to the Increased Prevalence of ACL Injury in Female Athletes

May 2022

The ACL is responsible for preventing hyperextension by becoming stiff as the knee extends. A knee that has increased ligament laxity is more prone to injury because the ACL is unable to resist stretching and therefore hyperextension. Biological females are more susceptible to ACL injury. The types, levels, and exposure of sex hormones differ between the sexes. One hormone with notable differences is estrogen. Estrogen levels are high during the ovulatory phase and this increase in estrogen coincides with increased ACL laxity and higher rates of ACL injury in females. Proper prevention programs that take the female biology into account could drastically reduce the prevalence rate for this severe injury.