Talented pool floods Maricopa Student Research Conference

2019 Maricopa Student Research Conference
2019 Maricopa Student Research Conference
April 29, 2019

Judges had their work cut out for them April 24 at the Maricopa Student Research Conference.

“The research submissions were exceptional,” said Dr. Polly Miller, Estrella Mountain Community College (EMCC) Residential Faculty: Computer Information Systems, who served as the Conference Faculty Coordinator this year.

EMCC President Dr. Ernest Lara echoed Dr. Miller’s sentiment.

“I had the opportunity to walk around and look at the research and there’s some great stuff here today,” he said.

Hosted by EMCC, the annual research conference gave students from all 10 Maricopa Community Colleges the chance to present their own work in a formal academic conference environment and compete for scholarship awards. Students were required to work with a faculty mentor.

The conference was rebranded this year to align with Guided Pathways and Fields of Interest. Three research tracks were introduced: Humanities and Behavioral and Social Sciences; Occupational Education; and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). Scholarship awards were raised to $1,000, $750, and $500 for first, second, and third place in both oral and poster board categories in all three tracks. Plus, in addition to certificates, winners also received medals this year.

EMCC student Holly McCutcheon won first place in the Occupational Education track for her oral presentation “What is 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome?” Her 4-year-old son, who was born with the disorder, was the driving force behind her research topic selection.

“It’s been difficult to navigate it,” she said. “22q11.2 deletion syndrome is one of the most common genetic conditions. Right now it’s neck and neck with Down syndrome, but so few people know about 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome that I was using this as a platform to raise awareness and educate future teachers and practitioners about it.”

College textbooks state that it’s a deadly condition but in reality, it’s rarely ever deadly.

“A person with 22q can live a really normal lifestyle and sometimes just have minimum intervention,” she said. “Sometimes, they need more support, but the fact that so few people know about it, how to treat it, and diagnose it is something that we need to raise awareness about.”

McCutcheon was thrilled when she found out she won first place.

“I’m very passionate about advocating for my son and raising awareness about his deletion syndrome,” she said. “There’s so much misinformation out there, I was just happy to have the opportunity to be able to speak publicly about it and have other people talking about it.”

Paradise Valley Community College (PVCC) student Laura Cote won first place in the STEM track for her poster board presentation “Nutritional Regulation of IGF-1: The Role of Protein Restriction in Health and Longevity.”

“It provides biochemical effects that actually protects people as they age, and allows people to live longer and healthier,” she said.

The second-year dietetic technology student’s topic was a continuation of research she did for last year’s conference on the benefits of caloric restriction, which she won second place for in the oral presentation category.

Cote was ecstatic when she found out she won first place this year.

“I feel truly honored to have been given a first-place prize,” she said. “Everybody here was incredibly top-notch. It was a fun learning experience for everybody.”

Chandler-Gilbert Community College (CGCC) student Jeremy Mattas won first place in the Humanities and Behavioral and Social Sciences track for his oral presentation “Speculative Consequences of Transcendence and Immortality.” Mattas, who be starting the mortuary science program in the fall, just really appreciates life.

“I think that we kind of sell ourselves short a lot of times,” he said. “I don’t think the standard of American life of roughly 78, 79 years is really enough time to accomplish everything we hope to accomplish.

Mattas explained that a lot of technology exists that is going to push the envelope and referenced a woman who lived 122 years and 164 days — the current world record for oldest living human.

“She smoked cigarettes and drank wine,” he said. “If someone with those behaviors can live that long, there’s no real reason why we can’t push beyond that, and we have a lot more technology than we did in 1997 when she died.”

Mattas believes we can do lots of things in our everyday lives to extend our lifespans and give us better quality of life.

Mattas was surprised when he found out he won first place because so many talented students competed.

“I thought I would maybe place, but not first,” he said.

Dr. Lara said district leadership has been working on a strategic plan to improves students’ experiences, and that the research conference falls in line with that strategy.

“This is one of the things that we have been doing — the research conference,” he said. “It’s giving you the opportunity to do some research while you’re here at the community college.”

Following is the entire list of winners:



  • 3rd Place: Jennifer Lance (EMCC) “Identifying Optimal Perch Heights Selected by Burrowing Owls at Artificial Burrows Across an Anthropogenic Landscape Gradient”
  • 1st Place tie: Chyna Rendon and Martha Morales (EMCC) “Seeing It Through the Scales Point of View”
  • 1st Place tie: Matthew Cummings (SCC) “The Significance of Correlations Between Artificial Intelligence and the Human Mind”

Humanities and Behavioral and Social Sciences

  • 2nd Place: Zach Stites (EMCC) “Be All That You Can Be! Examining Student Leadership Development in Community Colleges”
  • 1st Place: Jeremy Mattas (CGCC) “Speculative Consequences of Transcendence and Immortality”

Occupational Education

  • 3rd Place: Alyssa Guerra (EMCC) “Do Ethnic Studies Matter? An Investigation of Culturally Empowering Classes and Academic Achievement”
  • 2nd Place: Sierra Garcia (EMCC) “Resilience in Working Students”
  • 1st Place: Holly McCutcheon (EMCC) “What is 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome?”

Poster board


  • 3rd Place: Amber Toy (CGCC) “Dying to Look Good”
  • 2nd Place: Kayley Delcid (EMCC) “Measuring the Timing and Occupancy Patterns of Artificial Burrows Constructed for Burrowing Owls in the West Valley”
  • 1st Place: Laura Cote (PVCC) “Nutritional Regulation of IGF-1: The Role of Protein Restriction in Health and Longevity”

Humanities and Behavioral and Social Sciences

  • 3rd Place: Kayley Biersbach (GCC) “The Problem with Dial-a-Ride
  • 2nd Place: Kristi Kastenbaum, Destiny Cervantes, and Sarah Olivieri (EMCC) “Creating a Safe Space to Share Sadness: the Relationship between Depression, Stigmas, and Self-Disclosure
  • 1st Place: Joshua Brown (GCC) “Wet Dreamz: An Evaluation of Rap Music and Human Sexuality”