The Charger Blog

Senior Presents Alzheimer’s Research as Part of Prestigious Program

Crystal Harris ’20 was one of only 60 students from across the country chosen to participate in the Council on Undergraduate Research’s Posters on the Hill event. She is looking forward to continuing her research as a graduate student at the University of New Haven.

May 7, 2020

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Image of Crystal Harris with her SURF project
Crystal Harris presents her SURF research at the University of New Haven.

Crystal Harris ’20 has been conducting research that, she hopes, will provide insight into Alzheimer’s disease. She recently had the opportunity to present her work to a national audience.

One of only 60 students across the country chosen from a pool of 400 applicants, Harris was selected to be part of Posters on the Hill, an annual event that highlights undergraduate students’ research.

“When I was first selected to participate, I was ecstatic,” said Harris, a biology and forensic science double major. “I was so happy, and it felt like a dream come true. I was so excited to share my research.”

Hosted by the Council on Undergraduate Research, the highly selective event demonstrates the importance of federal investment in undergraduate research, enabling students to present their research to members of congress, federal government officials, congressional staffers, and other academics. Because of the global coronavirus pandemic, the event was held online.

Instead of presenting their posters in Washington, D.C., Harris and her fellow student researchers shared their posters on Twitter. Their work was then reposted by the Council on Undergraduate Research’s Twitter account, and students responded to questions and comments about their research.

“Although I wasn’t able to travel to Washington, D.C., to present my research in person, it was still an incredible opportunity,” she said. “I’m very grateful I could participate. I was also very happy to be able to represent the University in this prestigious event.”

"I’m excited to continue my research, and I hope it makes an impact on the future of Alzheimer's research." Crystal Harris '20

With the support of her mentor, Ali Senejani, Ph.D., Harris examined Alzheimer’s-related genes in neuron cells when they are infected with the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. She found a possible correlation between the two diseases.

Posters on the Hill is a critical part of CUR’s advocacy efforts, and it helps ensure that the voice of undergraduate researchers and their mentors are heard on Capitol Hill. This is the second year in a row that a University of New Haven student participated in Posters on the Hill, as last year, Yo Ng ’19, a chemistry and forensic science double major, presented her research exploring the feasibility of implementing low-cost ozone monitors to supplement the current air monitoring network.

“Crystal’s project is an example of the high caliber of faculty-mentored undergraduate student research at the University of New Haven,” said Judy Randi, Ed.D., director of undergraduate student research at the University. “The event provides an opportunity to advocate for the benefits of investment in undergraduate research.”

Harris, who last summer participated in the University’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship and shared her research with the University community, will remain at the University to begin pursuing her master’s degree in cellular and molecular biology in the fall.

“I’m excited to continue my research, and I hope it makes an impact on the future of Alzheimer’s research,” she said. “Alzheimer’s disease affects so many people throughout the world, and I would like to be a part of the solution.”