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A Mars Rover, Marine Biology Projects, and Business Stock Performances Are Among Entries at Annual Undergraduate Research Competition

A Mars Rover, Marine Biology Projects, and Business Stock Performances Are Among Entries at Annual Undergraduate Research Competition

IRVINE, CA (May 9, 2021) - Concordia University Irvine announced the winners of its  annual President's Academic Showcase which pairs individual undergraduate students, or teams, to work one-on-one with faculty mentors on a research project of their choice. More than 40 students from freshman to seniors representing over 15 majors competed in the virtual academic event which awards over $5,000 in cash.

One team entry, from Team Helios, included a 2-person human-powered rover built to NASA specs for the 2021 NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge. Team Helios built their rover, called Patience, over a nine-month period. With the on-site competition in Huntsville, AL cancelled due to COVID-19, students were required to submit videos taking their rover on a course that simulates terrain found on rocky bodies in the solar system. Team Helios will take Patience for a test drive for the first time on the CUI campus in mid-May.

Orange resident Ruthanna Belden, a senior Biology major, placed first in the junior and senior level, Tier One. Belden, whose research project focused on the effects of storage methods on fish otoliths, partnered with faculty mentor Biology professor Sean Bignami. Belden will be invited to represent Concordia University Irvine by presenting her research at an inter-collegiate undergraduate research conference this fall. Placing second, Business Administration major Owen Milligan of Riverside together with faculty mentor Business professor Michael Kinnen examined the relationship between stock performances and federal unemployment insurance benefits. Senior Biology and Psychology major Joemyl Rajah Ian Osorio of Hawaii placed third with a research project comparing the effects of drugs on injured zebrafish working with faculty advisor Biology professor Lindsay Kane-Barnese.

Tier two freshmen and sophomore winners included History & Political Thought and Biology majors. Irvine resident Nathan Estrick, a Sophomore History & Political Thought major, placed first with his project “The Myth of the Superman and their Confrontation with Death” with the help of faculty mentor Professor of Philosophy and Theology Jeff Mallinson. Two sophomore biology majors placed second and third. Alana Hurley of Scottsdale, AZ placed second with her project “The Relationship Between Body and Image, Disordered Eating, and Athletic Performance in NCAA Cross Country Athletes” with the help of faculty mentor Kinesiology professor Nathan Meier. Placing third from West Hills, CA was Sarah Ibrahim who together with her faculty mentor Biology Professor Sarah Karam examined malaria in Africa.

Concordia’s annual academic competition requires undergraduate students, or teams, to write a 25-page report and to create an academic poster. The top five finalists give an additional 20-minute oral presentation. Students’ work is judged by a panel of multi-disciplinary faculty. Majors represented in the competition each year include biology, English, theology, behavioral sciences, music, theater, education, business, communications, psychology, art, chemistry, history, anthropology, linguistics and mathematics.


Concordia University Irvine (CUI) is a non-profit Christian liberal arts university governed by the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS). Preparing students for their vocations—their callings in life—Concordia offers graduate and undergraduate degree programs through its six schools—Arts & Sciences, Business & Economics, Christ College, Education, Health & Human Sciences, and the Townsend Institute. Nationally, its undergraduate core curriculum program, Enduring Questions & Ideas, has earned public recognition. Concordia is a U.S. News Top Tier Regional University and has been named by The Chronicle of Higher Education as one of the fastest growing private nonprofit master's institutions. The only NCAA DII university in Orange County, Concordia enrolls about 4,000 students annually, and is a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI).

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