Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference Addressed Our Changing Global Environment

November 18, 2019

Vint Cerf and Joe Palca interview

Vint Cerf of Google, left on stage, answers questions from NPR science correspondent Joe Palca and the audience after his talk at the Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference about using the Internet to track and analyze the effects of climate change. (Photos by Ruthie Hauge Photography)

Media Contact:

Heather Thorstensen
Manager of Communications
Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society or (919) 549-4691 ext. 216

MADISON, WI—Sigma Xi members, science supporters, and students came together at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center in Madison, Wisconsin, on November 14—17 for the 2019 Sigma Xi Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference. This year’s theme was Our Changing Global Environment: Scientists and Engineers Designing Solutions for the Future.

The conference began with a business meeting for delegates who represented chapters of the 133-year-old honor society for scientists and engineers. Sigma Xi has chapters around the world at colleges, universities, government laboratories, industry research centers, and area chapters that cover multiple institutions. Delegates heard updates from Society leaders and president-elect candidates, and discussed business of the Society. Chapter award winners were announced.

Plenary speakers included Vint Cerf, Internet evangelists at Google, who discussed how the Internet and computational modeling are tools for understanding the effects of climate change. Another plenary speaker, May Berenbaum, professor and head of entomology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, gave an update on the insect apocalypse. Additional speakers included all but one of Sigma Xi’s 2019 award winners. Gordon Moore, co-fonder of Intel and the 2019 Gold Key Award recipient spoke to attendees via pre-recorded remarks. Breakout sessions related to the meeting theme were organized by tracks for water, life and health, and energy. Other tracks related to Sigma Xi’s mission to support the research enterprise with sessions on research ethics, science communication, and professional development. 

Female student at poster

A student presents her research poster at the Student Research Conference on November 16 in Madison, Wisconsin.


Approximately 140 high school, undergraduate, and graduate students attended the meeting and presented their research during a poster session and oral presentations. Sigma Xi members judged the students on their scientific thought, method, and communication skills. All student presenters were nominated to Sigma Xi membership. Top presenters, listed below, received a medal, monetary award, and a nomination to Sigma Xi membership with their initiation fee and first year’s dues paid. 

The meeting concluded with a new event, a STEM Art and Film Festival, to celebrate the power that visual arts have in communicating concepts relating to science, technology, engineering, and math. 

The 2020 Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference will be held November 5—8 at the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center in Alexandria, Virginia. The theme will be Hacking the Brain: The Intersection of Art and Neuroscience. 

Top Student Presenters in the 2019 Student Research Conference 

Presidential Award

Abdul Jalil-Dania, American Heritage Plantation

Oral Presentations

1st: Kazim Kerim Moncal, The Pennsylvania State University 2nd: Eniya Krishnaraj, American Heritage School Plantation
Honorable Mention: Ann Fuelle, Oakland University

Student Choice Award Second Prize (tie)

Yulene Oyerbide, American Heritage School Plantation

Ryan Schaffer, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University

Benjamin Barron, American Heritage School Boca Delray

Student Choice Award First Prize

Eeshani Behara, American Heritage School Boca Delray

High School Division Awards for Poster Presentations

Agricultural, Soil and Natural Resources
Maria Isabel Layson, Iloilo National High School

Keshav Dhir, Henry M. Gunn High School

Cell Biology and Biochemistry (tie)
Valentina Ortega, American Heritage School Plantation
Jessie Gan, San Diego Jewish Academy

Tiffanie Huang, Archbishop Mitty High School, and Grace Huang, The Harker School

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Alice Feng, The Harker School

Surpiya Lall, Castilleja School

Environmental Science (tie)
Bhaveshsai Reddy, American Heritage School Plantation
Rajat Ramesh, American Heritage School Plantation

Elena Hochheiser, Taylor Allderdice High School

Human Behavioral and Social Science
Rishin Kesarla, Texas Academy of Math and Science

Math and Computer Science (tie)
Neil Sacheva, Pine Crest School
Jonathan Williams, Pine Crest School

Microbiology and Molecular Biology
Albert Ting, American Heritage School Plantation

Physics and Astronomy
Rhea Iyer, American Heritage School Boca/Delray

Physiology and Immunology
Skylar Kronrad, Pine Crest School

Undergraduate Division Awards for Poster Presentations

Cell Biology and Biochemistry
Mario Rodriguez Garcia, University of California, Irvine
Tara Thakurta, Brown University

Lindsey Westphal, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Yangjie Tan and Seika Shiba, Depuaw University

Luc Langlois, Brown University
Rodolfo Keesey, Fordham University

Environmental Science
Kate Grint, Doane University

Human Behavioral and Social Science
Farida Ahmed, Fordham University

Math and Computer Sciences
William McCann, New Jersey Institute of Technology

Microbiology and Molecular Biology
Laurel Levine , Oakland University

Physics and Astronomy
Hayden Scott, Louisiana State University

Physiology and Immunology
Melissa Emami, University of California, Irvine

Honorable Mention
Erin Szablewski, Lawrence University (Geosciences)

Graduate Division Awards for Poster Presentations

Agricultural, Soil and Natural Resources
Haixin Peng     Auburn University

Cell Biology and Biochemistry (tie)
Erving Laryea, Oakland University
Naomi Haque, Oakland University

Vusumuzi sibanda, Portland State University

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Walter Wolfsberger, Oakland University

Juan Solis, New Mexico State University

Human Behavioral and Social Sciences
Emily Vance, Saint Joseph's University

Math and Computer Science
Anmol Paudel, Marquette University

Microbiology and Molecular Biology
Justin Go, Quinnipiac University

Physiology and Immunology
Ella Kasanga, University of North Texas Health Science Center

Honorable Mention
Samantha Thomas, John Hopkins University (Environmental Science)

Updated 2/4/2020

More About Sigma Xi: Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society is the world’s largest multidisciplinary honor society for scientists and engineers. Its mission is to enhance the health of the research enterprise, foster integrity in science and engineering, and promote the public understanding of science for the purpose of improving the human condition. Sigma Xi chapters can be found at colleges and universities, government laboratories, and industry research centers around the world. More than 200 Nobel Prize winners have been members. The Society is based in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. On Twitter: @SigmaXiSociety