Student, Faculty Collaboration and Preparation for a Research Conference

Research Creative and Achievement Conference returns to highlight research conducted by Merrimack College students.

There are many important events at the end of the academic year at Merrimack College, but for Christine Shaw, the Research Creative and Achievement Conference stands out.

“This is a celebration of students’ academic achievement and hard work and it is all there in one place,” said Shaw, director of the School Counseling Program and professor of practice, education and community studies. It is time for students to show what they cared about and what they examined so deeply over the past year. I am a very big proponent of the conference and so appreciate that Merrimack gives our students the opportunity to do this”

RCAC is the preeminent showcase of student research at Merrimack College. More than 200 students from the undergraduate and graduate levels across the institution will present original work. Among those students are 32 from the School Counseling Program, for which the conference holds significant importance.

For several years, presenting at RCAC has been a requirement for the School Counseling Program graduate students, Shaw explained. Following their fieldwork in an area school district, students must demonstrate the actionable and impactful results of their real-world experience. Counseling students are judged at RCAC by professionals in the fields, as well as educators and administrators.

“It is an integral part of the program,” Shaw said. “It is the culminating event for our students to demonstrate their competency and their capacity to be effective in the field.”

Among the students presenting at RCAC this year is Jacob Beaudoin ’20, ’23, who for the past year has done his graduate fellowship at Catholic Memorial in West Roxbury, Massachusetts. As part of the counseling team, Beaudoin developed a survey and classroom interventions to address mental health concerns among the school’s freshmen class.

In fall 2022, a survey of the all-boys school’s freshmen class revealed about 70 percent of them felt stressed more often than not. Beaudoin worked with teachers and staff on ways to destigmatize mental health, which included implementing this spring hands-on interventions in theology classes.

“We explored what mental health is, resources and people students can reach out to for support and how we can best help our friends,” Beaudoin explained. “We administered the survey again and found 70 percent of students increased their willingness to ask for help when stressed.”

Azam Noori, associate professor of biology, will have several students presenting at RCAC on their research on plant sciences, specifically investigating plant metabolism for natural medicine purposes and the hormone that improves plant growth and defense mechanisms.   

In addition to work in the lab, Noori said she mentors students on their presentation skills and makes the research understandable to the masses.

“We do a lot of practice to be prepared for presentations at professional conferences,” said Noori. “I ensure students know the work, are engaged in the research, and understand the details. This helps them to present with confidence and answer challenging questions related to the project. Many hours and resources are spent on a project to train students, improve their skills, and advance their knowledge. All aspects of the research I do from training students to writing scientific papers is with the intention of serving society.”

For Sarah Montgomery ’22, ’23 this is her second time participating in RCAC. The Double Warrior, who is getting her degree in biology with a focus on biotechnology and biomedical sciences, presented last spring on her research work on fungal pathogens and this year will showcase an expansion on that project.

“It was very interesting,” Montgomery said of her first RCAC experience. “I felt like everyone was very prepared and excited to present and I enjoyed it a lot.”

She also spoke highly of the support and mentorship she has received from faculty as she pursued her research. “I love that whenever I had a question or needed help, my professors were always there, but at the same time they were hands-off and trusted us and gave us the tools to make discoveries.”


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