Three seniors reflect on their academic conference presentations


Over 300 Saint Vincent students showcased their coursework and research at this year’s academic conference which took place on April 25, including three seniors who shared their work with The Review.

Seniors Joyelle Gaines, Natalie Kunkel and Dylan Pietrantoni each presented research in the areas of communication, business administration and biology, respectively.

Gaines, a senior psychology major, explored the opinions of high school students on the depictions of African American characters in the media over the last twenty years.

Gaines a minor in communication and worked on this study independently throughout the semester in Dr. Jessica Harvey’s Research on Children in the Media class.


Gaines recruited teenage students from her former high school in New Jersey.

“I wanted to know if these teenagers saw any progression in the depiction of black characters in the media, and if they had any opinions on what kind of progression we needed for the future in media, and in our society as a whole,” Gaines said.

She was inspired by the positive reception for the movie Black Panther, and asked students to compare this depiction to those of television shows Empire, The Cosby Show, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Blackish.

“The process was a bit stressful, because I recruited from a high school and unfortunately high schoolers are very bad at returning permission slips, which were necessary for the study to begin,” Gaines said.

She said, “In the end, I got some really great responses and I really enjoyed presenting my results to those who were able to attend.”

Natalie Kunkel, a senior accounting major, presented her project during the fall semester before being selected to participate in the conference.

Business majors are required to complete Business Policy and Strategy and create a strategic plan for a corporation.

“I worked with Molly O’Toole and Emily Uhrin and we chose to do our strategy case on Netflix. The first part of the project was to gather and document information various topics such as identifying the present strategy, internal and external environment and the critical issues Netflix faces.” Kunkel said.

The group then devised a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats), and identified four possible strategies to choose from.

They decided to form their plan around the threat that Netflix could lose much of its licensed content.

“Our strategy argued that Netflix should enter a partnership with CBS and have All Access content available on Netflix for a small surcharge. In return, CBS would own 35% of Netflix’s voting stock,” Kunkel said.

The group was excited when they were approached by Dr. Jeff Godwin to present at the conference.

She said, “Usually only one group from the fall semester is asked, and we put a lot of time and effort into our project. It was nice to have the opportunity to present our hard work one more time before graduation.”


Dylan Pietrantoni, a senior biology major, presented his senior research project during the conference.

The project, titled, “The effects of high-intensity training (HIIT) and continuous moderate-intensity training (CMIT) on muscular endurance and grip strength in mice” was a year and a half long experience for Pietrantoni.

“I started last spring when I planned my project and created my AJ Palumbo Grant proposal funding for supplies, and then in the fall I conducted the experimental portion of the entire project,” he said.

Pietrantoni tested two groups of mice and tested them twice weekly for six weeks, for twelve total workouts.

“I used two types of training, wall climbing and wheel running, in different time intervals for the two groups of mice,” he said.

The mice that performed HIIT workouts participated in twenty-seven minute workouts broken into short intervals, while the CMIT mice trained for fifty-five minutes but with less breaks.

Pietrantoni explained that the mice were then hung upside down on a metal ring to see how long they could hold themselves for, to test endurance and grip strength.

“I then used an in vitro test, in which I euthanized the mice and dissected their muscles, to stimulate them with electric shock and test the force generation.”

Test results found that the HIIT trained mice tended to be stronger, but the CMIT trained mice were better endured.

Pietrantoni said that while he learned much about science and research throughout the experience, he gained a deeper appreciation for the process in general.

“I have learned an immensity about life: time management, patience, perseverance, and even some failure. I am extremely appreciative of Saint Vincent and the biology department for giving seniors the opportunity to conduct such projects,” he said.

The academic conference was held from 2:30 to 7 p.m. on April 25 in the Sis and Herman Dupre Science Pavilion at Saint Vincent College.

Photos: Gaines, SVC Flickr

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