Variety of research on full display at fall symposium

December 07, 2021 / by / 0 Comment

From left, Karson Cook, Daniella Brown and Amanda Mendoza give a presentation about the research that went into this season’s Ethington Theatre production of “Radium Girls.”

Story by Ashlee Larrison
Photos by Ralph Freso
GCU News Bureau

Human flourishing.

It is the primary reason Grand Canyon University exists, and it was a concept GCU President Brian Mueller saw on full display Monday at the Fall 2021 Learning Community and Research Symposium.

“We want human beings to flourish throughout the globe,” Mueller told the audience. “This was a great example of what we’re trying to accomplish.”

President Brian Mueller praised the efforts of students during the symposium.

Five groups of students from multiple areas of study presented their research to faculty, staff and executives, bringing attention to ways that GCU students are positively impacting the world around them.

For College of Fine Arts and Production students Daniella Brown, Karson Cook, Amanda Mendoza, Jessica Rumrill and Emily Uranga, that impact comes through the medium of storytelling.

“As a theatre ed major, what I’d love is for more studies to be shown and for more workshops to happen to really show how worldwide theatre is important, especially from an educational standpoint,” Cook said.  “Just doing a simple theatre improv game that seems like just a game can get the kid that is the most distracted, the most disruptive … it can ground them and make them focused and concentrated in a way that normal non-fine arts teachers can’t.”

The group’s presentation, “Let’s Put On A Show,” detailed the research process that went into the set, sound design, costumes, hair and makeup for this season’s production of “Radium Girls.”

GCU Provost Dr. Hank Radda listens intently to a presentation.

The production, which featured several different student designs, is based on real events and required countless hours of studying to maintain accuracy throughout.

In addition to highlighting the prominent role research plays in the arts, the presentation worked as a precursor for the group’s submission into next semester’s Kennedy Center Theatre Festival.

“Our faculty members Bill Symington and Claude Pensis really stressed that we should do something like this to not only show what we’re going to do at the Kennedy Center but also show it to GCU as a whole,” Rumrill said. “We thought this was a really good idea to get us shown to Brian Mueller, a bunch of faculty members and overall just spread what we really do at GCU.”

As the only arts-based presentation in this year’s symposium, they hope that by putting themselves out there alongside other examples of prominent academic research, they can encourage more arts representation in the future.

Academic student organizations managed booths at the Learning Community Fair before the symposium.

“The only thing that I hope comes out of us doing this is that our peers and our other friends in COFAP are able to step out of our bubble and show others the cool process that we all know deeply,” Brown said. “If we let ourselves break that wall down, other people will take what we do more seriously, and we can show how much effort and how much love goes into what we do.”

Awareness was a common goal of the presenters. Another example was Jaelynn Maestas’ group and its presentation, “Epidemiological Model of Violent Behavior.”

The group, which included Rodrigo Ramirez and Brenda Ornelas, was inspired to research similarities between the pandemic and recent displays of societal violence after witnessing examples of civil unrest around the country over the past year and a half.

“We decided it was a result of COVID and to look into it because not a lot of people were focusing on that,” Maestas said.

Guests visit student project booths before the start of the symposium.

The goal: to collect enough data to see how violence spreads like a biological disease and find possible ways to minimize the number of people affected by violence.

Maestas said that sharing her group’s research with so many notable members of the GCU community made the experience that much more memorable.

“It was such a great opportunity to be able and come here and speak,” she said. “It’s so cool to be able to present to other people. … It was amazing. I have no other words.”

Maestas added that Monday’s presentation was just the beginning of her group’s research. According to Honors College Associate Dean and Learning Community and Research committee member Dr. Breanna Naegeli, the same could be said for each of the research projects at the event.

“The best part is that everything you see is not necessarily a finished project, so there’s going to be a second and a third and a fourth revision of this work as they continue to build upon these ideas and these concepts,” she said. “It’s great to get a snapshot of where they’re at now, knowing that there’s a ton of greatness to come.”

Nathan Olsen gives attendees an update on the STELLAR project.

This is especially true for returning presenters Erik Yost, Nathan Olsen and Camden Marasco.

This semester’s symposium was an opportunity for the trio to provide an update to their work on the STELLAR (Space Technology and Engineering for Launching Life Application Research) renewable energy idea they presented earlier this year in the Spring Research Symposium.

“What I hope the attendees would take away is the scale of the accomplishment that our team and program has been able to do in less than just one year,” said Olsen, STELLAR’s Vice President and Director of Engineering. “STELLAR has already been able to push through so many boundaries in the research and space technology community, and we are excited to showcase GCU around the world with what our team is doing.”

In addition to updating attendees on what’s new with their microbial fuel cell research, Yost also shared his mission to leave a positive impact on the world.

“I hope that the attendees were able to take away the gravity of the humanitarian research that we are working on here at STELLAR,” the STELLAR President said. “Seeing how my vision lines up with President Mueller’s is a great opportunity for us to collaborate and seek more ways to change the world in Jesus’ name.”


  • Let’s Put on a Show
    • Student Researchers: Daniella Brown, Karson Cook, Amanda Mendoza, Jessica Rumrill and Emily Uranga
    • Faculty Advisors: William Symington and Claude Pensis
  • Epidemiological Model of Violent Behavior
    • Student Researchers: Jaelynn Maestas, Rodrigo Ramirez and Brenda Ornelas
    • Faculty Advisor: Aprillya Lanz
  • COVID-19, Weight Gain and Physical Inactivity
    • Student Researchers: Malia Nowlen, Riley Morton, Estephania Campa and Kyli Alvarez
    • Faculty Advisor: Zachary Zeigler
  • Genetic Deletion of Uptake Hydrogenase to Increase Hydrogen Production in Cyanobacteria
    • Student Researchers: Martina Miranda, Kamaile Conant, Jose Delgado and Morgan Snider
    • Faculty Advisor: Galyna Kufryk
  • The Sustainable Applications of the Photochemical and Electrical Effects of a Microbial Fuel Cell in Microgravity
    • Student Researchers: Erik Yost, Camden Marasco and Nathan Olsen
    • Faculty Advisor: Jeff LaBelle

Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected].


Related content:

GCU Today: Symposium/Showcase shows range of research

GCU Today: Another STELLAR performance by research group

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