Alumni Spotlight: Michael Bellas

Michael BellasMichael Bellas graduated from YSU in May with a major in chemistry and minor in geology. He actually changed majors three times before finding his place in the chemistry department.

While at YSU, Michael made the most of the resources available to him. He worked on quite a bit of research with Dr. Genna and presented at YSU’s QUEST, the Pennsylvania-Ohio Border Section of the American Chemical Society at Westminster College, and the University of Akron’s Ohio Inorganic Weekend.

Interdisciplinary research is emphasized in the STEM College at YSU, and Michael has firsthand experience in this kind of research.

“This research often involved collaboration between departments (Chemistry, Physics, and Geology) as well as local industry, notably the Materials Research Laboratory in Struthers,” said Michael.

Michael was also very involved outside of the classroom, claiming membership in Phi Kappa Phi, Sigma Alpha Lambda, the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, and the YSU student chapter of the American Chemical Society (treasurer). He also worked on campus in the Center for Student Progress.

Currently Michael is interning at the University of Michigan in Dr. Melanie Sanford’s lab. In the fall he will begin working toward his PhD from the University of Michigan while undoubtedly pursuing more research opportunities.

“I am not really sure what I will do after that- whether I’ll end up in academia or industry,” said Michael. “I just want to do chemistry and have fun, that’s about the most honest answer I can give you!”

While reflecting on his time at YSU, Michael explains that he was given the best opportunities because the size of the STEM College is just right.

“The STEM program is large enough that I had access to the very same equipment being used at top 10 universities, like Columbia and Northwestern, yet small enough that the faculty could give me the hands on attention that fostered my success,” said Michael.

Check out Michael’s first publication in Inorganic Chemistry!

Michael K. Bellas, Joseph J. Mihaly, Matthias Zeller, and Douglas T Genna, “Anion-Cation Mediated Structural Rearrangement of 3-Dimensional Interpenetrated Metal-Organic Frameworks,” Inorganic Chemistry 2017, 56, 950-955.

Transforming the Future: Chemistry Graduate is Princeton-Bound

Tyler PabstTyler Pabst is a recent graduate from YSU with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a minor in mathematics.

A truly dedicated student, Tyler has been heavily involved in the Honors College and has also served as a trustee and treasurer for the University Scholars Program. Working in the Center for Student Progress and volunteering for a number of non-profit organizations in Youngstown further enriched his experiences during his time at YSU.

“I started college as a Biology major with the intent to go to medical school,” said Tyler, “but when I took organic chemistry the summer following my freshman year, I really fell in love with it and started thinking about becoming a scientist.”

After committing to chemistry, Tyler immediately became involved with Dr. Genna’s research group. This research led him to present results as far as Seattle, and he hopes to publish a full paper soon. Though his research was quite distinct from most of the other research in Dr. Genna’s group, it has left an impact.

“My work has also given rise to some new project ideas that the group will pursue in the future,” said Tyler.

Tyler will be attending Princeton in the fall to begin working on his PhD. He aspires to become a professor and lead his own research groups. For now he continues to work in the lab on organometallics research that may lead to publishing an in-depth paper.

Many YSU STEM students have expressed surprise and gratitude toward the availability of professors and research opportunities for undergraduate students, and Tyler is no exception.

“I think it was very valuable that, even as a 19-year-old undergrad who didn’t yet fully understand what I was doing, I could be trusted to just dive in to research,” said Tyler. “I think we’re in a sweet spot in terms of resources and accessibility of those resources.”

This commentary from Tyler sums it all up:

“I’ve thought recently about how I, as a high school senior who committed to YSU because it was my cheapest option, would react to the idea that I was headed to Princeton for a PhD in chemistry.  In all honesty, I did not expect to grow as much as I have in these four years, or to get such a world-class education, or to be in the position that I find myself in now.  I consider myself fortunate to be a YSU penguin at the best time ever to be one.  Our chemistry department is sending recent graduates to Notre Dame, Michigan, and Princeton this summer for PhDs.  I have friends going into engineering doctoral programs at UC-Berkeley and Yale, and still others working for Tesla, GE, and Google.  I’m so excited to see the amazing things YSU students do for years to come; I don’t think there’s any doubt that we’re trending upward.”

We at YSU STEM congratulate Tyler on his accomplishments, wish him the best at Princeton, and look forward to hearing about his future successes.

Recent Graduate Jenna Wise Awarded NSF Fellowship

Jenna WiseJenna Wise, a recent computer science and mathematics graduate, has been awarded a 2017 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. 2,000 STEM students nationwide were awarded out of a pool of more than 13,000 applicants.

The fellowship program recognizes students for their academic efforts while pursuing a research-based, graduate-level degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics.

Jenna’s name may sound familiar to many because of her strong presence here at YSU:

  • Webmaster and former president of Pi Mu Epsilon
  • President and former vice president of the Association for Computing Machinery–Women
  • Tutor at the Mathematics Assistance Center
  • Student researcher in the Software Engineering Research and Empirical Studies Laboratory (CSIS Department under Dr. Sharif)
  • 2016 Barry Goldwater Scholarship recipient
  • Author and co-author of several math and computer science publications

With many activities and accomplishments under her belt, Jenna has already compiled an impressive resume through all of her hard work.

She has worked on NSF-funded research in the past, including her eye-tracking research with Dr. Sharif which was also the basis of her senior project.

Jenna is spending her summer as an intern for IBM Research before attending Carnegie Mellon University for her PhD studies in the fall.

Check out this article from YSU News to read more about Jenna and her award.

View details about the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program here.

Student Research: QUEST & STEM Showcase


QUEST is a unique university sponsored forum for undergraduate and graduate students to:

  • Present scholarship to the community
  • Share acheivements and creations
  • Hone conference presentation skills
  • Receive University recognition for accomplishments

Examples of past QUEST submissions include:

  • Results and finished products of scientific research
  • Musical scores
  • Engineering designs and analyses
  • Panel discussions of social, political, and economic issues
  • Poetry readings
  • Honors and senior theses
  • Study abroad experiences

QUEST presentation

Three graduate presentations were selected to present at Best of Quest; two of them were STEM students:

  • Sarah Springer (College of STEM)
    • Anion controlled synthesis of partially halogenated In-derived metal-organic frameworks
  • Jennifer Moore (College of STEM) 2017 Best of QUEST Winner
    • Tuning the substrate specificity of the glutathione transferase GstB from Escherichia coli via site-directed mutagenesis.

One undergraduate project from each college was selected to present at Best of QUEST; two were selected from STEM as a tie:

  • Antonio DiSalvo, Mark Plant, Elizabeth Urig (College of STEM) (tie)
    • Optimized Rim for Spring Tires
  • Vincent Dell’Arco, Jared Fink (College of STEM) (tie)
    • Automatic Tong Mechanism Senior Design Project

A complete program for QUEST 2017 can be found here, which includes abstracts for the projects.

STEM Showcase

The STEM Showcase is an annual event highlighting our students and the projects they have worked hard on all year.

On Saturday, April 22, 2017, students set up posters, tables, experiments, prototypes, and finished projects in Moser Hall so that guests could examine the students’ knowledge and effort. Facilities were available for touring including the Center for Innovation in Additive Manufacturing, YSU’s bragworthy 3D printing lab.

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QUEST & Best of QUEST 2016

On April 5, YSU undergraduate and graduate students displayed research and projects in poster sessions and oral presentations for peers, professors, community members, and judges. Every college was represented with a diverse array of research topics.

The judges were tasked with selecting one top project from each of YSU’s seven colleges. Those groups then presented at Best of QUEST, where the judges selected one winning project from an undergraduate group and one winner from the graduate student group. Other winners were selected by college.

Congratulations to those receiving a top project distinction, and to all who participated in QUEST 2016.

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Best Undergraduate Project ($1,000 Scholarship funded by YSU Foundation)

Taylor N Baum, Allison N Guerrieri, Tayah D Turocy, Rachel M Centofanti, Samantha A Mock: Determination of Protein Content and Amino Acid Composition of Farm Crickets


Best Graduate Project ($500 Scholarship funded by YSU Foundation)

Vinayak Sinha: Analyzing Developer Sentiment in Commit Logs


College Award – Graduate Studies ($200 award funded by YSU Research Foundation)

Liu Yinghui: Restoration of Melanin in Albino Mutant of Fonseace monophora can Reverse Its Pathogenicity to the Heterologous Insect Host Galleria mellonella


College Award – College of STEM ($200)

Jon Bancroft, Cory Merlo, Kyle Spickler: Design of a CNC Small Hole EDM


College Award – College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences ($200)

Megan Evans: The Debilitating Effects of Socioeconomic Status Among Elementary School Students


College Award – Bitonte Health and Human Services ($200)

Allison M Shay: Nutrition-Focused Physical Assessment for Malnutrition


College Award – Williamson College of Business Administration ($200)

Samantha Anderson: The Affordable Care Act: Financial Implications of Healthcare Mandates on Small Business


College Award – College of Creative Arts and Communication ($200)

Gina Mancini: Reflection of Personality in Social Media


College Award – Beeghley College of Education ($200)

Mackenzi Brozovich: Digital Literacy in Special Education: An Analysis and Compilation of the Resources Available in the Classroom

Student Organization Spotlight: The Association for Women in Mathematics

female math studentsThe Youngstown State University Student Chapter of the Association for Women in Mathematics is dedicated to encouraging young women in sciences.

Monica Busser, president of the student organization, says it’s really all about making women feel comfortable in their STEM majors.

“The Association for Women in Math focuses on empowering women and girls to pursue careers in math and science and to feel comfortable pursuing those careers, especially in a male dominated field,” said Monica.

The group emphasizes both math and professional women. They have helped to promote the Math Assistance Center, they talk to schoolchildren about careers in math, and they also plan to take on an active role for Women’s History Month.

”We have our first Association for Women in Mathematics Colloquium,” said Monica. “Dr. Pamela Harris is an algebraist, and she’s going to talk to us about her research, which will be really cool.”

Dr. Harris will give her talk on Abstract Algebra on March 25 at 3:00 p.m. in the Cafaro Suite in Lincoln. Afterward in the Cafaro Suite, there will be History of Women in Mathematics Trivia where participants can compete for a gift card prize.

The group also participated in YSU’s Women in STEM Day to encourage local middle school and high school students to pursue STEM majors and careers. This event also included many professionals in STEM fields to interact with the girls and answer questions.

At the end of January, six of YSU’s female math majors (pictured above with Dr. Spalsbury) attended the Nebraska Conference for Undergraduate Women in Mathematics where they presented research in the company of fellow math women. This is what each of them presented:

Unique Hamiltonicity and Computational Algebraic Geometry by Monica Busser

The Fifteen Schoolgirl Problem by Sheri Cope

Developing an Educational Sudoku Solver by Emily Hoopes

Numerical Results for the IVP to the Burgers Equation with External Forces by Crystal Mackey

A Study of Youngstown Public Housing Program Participants’ Preferences by Ashley Orr

A Bone Eat Bone World: Math Models of Bone Metabolism by Gabrielle Van Scoy

Any students interested in the Association for Women in Mathematics, any gender or major, can contact Monica Busser at