Melice Golding, a senior Psychology major at CSI, won first place for her poster at the 21st annual CSTEP conference at The Sagamore on Lake George in Bolton Landing, NY.
Golding’s poster, “Processing of an Unfamiliar Foreign Language in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)” was CSI’s second win in a row for psychology students—CSI swept the Psychology field this year—and the College’s sixth first-place finish in a row.
The poster focused on children with ASD and used a discrimination-choice procedure embedded in a video game to examine whether these deficits might be due to unusual patterns of attention. The study used unfamiliar languages, German, in this case, that prevented the children from extracting meaning in order to determine if the inability to extract meaning has a detrimental effect on the attention spans of students with ASDs. From the study, Golding discovered that meaning does not have an effect on the attention of ASD children.
In discussing the process of competing at the conference, Golding jokingly called the experience “nerve wracking.” Golding, who had competed the year before, said she “really wanted to take home a trophy for my College.” She went on to discuss her project and the surprising results she gathered. “We were utterly surprised by the results,” she said. “That is the best part of being a researcher. Though, you don’t want your hypothesis to be incorrect, it is really exciting to see results you aren’t expecting.”
In all, there were 121 projects in 15 categories presented by 144 CSTEP students from 34 institutions from around the state, including, New York University, Columbia University, Syracuse University, Long Island University, and SUNY Downstate, as well as all 24 CUNY colleges and universities. The conference was comprised of several student workshops as well as programs geared to professional development. The focus of the conference is to celebrate the dedication and effort that New York-area CSTEP students put forth in their scholarship and to encourage them all to continue their research in whichever field they choose.
As stated previously, Golding’s success is nothing new to CSI as the College’s CSTEP program has a brilliant track record of producing some of the brightest and most successful students in the state. The CSTEP program was founded to provide academic enrichment and research experience in science, mathematics, and technology content areas. Debra Evans-Greene, the Director of the CSTEP program at CSI emphasized the importance of having programs such as CSTEP at institutions of higher learning. “CSTEP levels the playing field for students belonging to historically underrepresented groups or families that are financially unstable,” she said.
“The trick,” Evans-Greene continued, “is to get these students to believe that math and science are fields they can get into. They come to me and say, ‘I can’t do this’ and I love to prove them wrong,” she added with a smile.
She goes on to say that conferences such as the one at Lake George provide healthy competition, “which is good. It helps to sharpen your skills. It also helps to provide students with a network of like-minded individuals.”
She also praised the efforts of many of CSI’s professors and CSTEP PhD students, including Dr. Bertram Ploog and Dr. Alan Lyons, who directly influenced Golding’s work. “They did such a wonderful job preparing the students for the conference,” she noted.
Dr. Ploog, praising Golding’s work, said, “Ms. Golding has been central to all our efforts and success. I consider her among my very top students I have had the privilege to teach over the past 20 years. In addition, with her intelligence and warmth, Ms. Golding is truly a quality person. She has been exceedingly successful despite some life adversities that would have made others quit.”
“On a personal note,” Dr. Ploog added, “I’d like to thank CSTEP and in particular Ms. Debra Evans-Greene for their wonderful support of our deserving and best students. It truly has been a pleasure to work with Ms. Evans-Greene and her wonderful staff. I hope this collaboration will continue for many more years to come.”
Golding, who is planning to study for her PhD in Clinical Psychology, added, “My professors went above and beyond, getting us ready for the conference.” She added that the practice presentations that her professors held were “brutal” in the best possible way as CSI’s CSTEP students took home three trophies combined.
“We also have five PhD students who really grilled our conference students,” Evans-Greene added.
In all, Evans-Greene takes obvious pride in the success of the CSTEP students and is keen to keep the pressure on for next year’s CSTEP cohort. “We won six in a row at the conference; my goal is to make it seven.”