North Country winners named for 2020 SUNY Potsdam Learning and Research Fair
Tuesday, May 19, 2020 - 1:04 pm


POTSDAM -- The 2020 SUNY Potsdam Learning and Research Fair has announced several local winners from this year's competition, held in an online format made necessary by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The winners have been selected from some 30 entries spanning the arts, sciences, social sciences and humanities. With fewer entries to evaluate this year and more time to spend with the student researchers, judges were able to dig deeper into methods, conclusions and academic approaches of the contestants via Zoom interviews, said press release from the college.

About 80 students, faculty, staff, parents and friends attended a virtual awards ceremony presenting more than $2,000 worth of prizes on May 11. The annual event of the Lougheed Center for Applied Learning showcases the best of student-driven research and initiative at the College, and this year's virtual fair tested the technical aptitude of contestants while also drawing in family members from as far away as California -- participants who otherwise wouldn't have been able to attend.

Students submitted abstracts, poster files and a short video about their research, which were posted online.

Emily Willis '20, of Potsdam, received a first place Frederick B. Kilmer Research Award in the humanities, arts, and social sciences category, for a project titled "At Rest: An Epidemiological Study of Potsdam Cemetery Populations."

Willis drew from a database of 6,000 residents interred in four Potsdam cemeteries from 1861 to 1911, and tracked death rates from tuberculosis, typhoid fever, scarlet fever and other diseases. Although she started the research well before the coronavirus pandemic, her research revealed modern parallels to the past.

"When COVID-19 hit, I had already begun tracking the spread of infectious diseases in Potsdam through the obituaries of its citizens," said Willis, an archaeological studies major. "So, I got to employ methods similar to what epidemiologists are doing now. That really resonated with me. It was also striking to see that my results are being mirrored by COVID-19, so far. We're seeing a small amount of deaths initially, then a spike in deaths, followed by a slow decline through time."

To see the Learning and Research Fair entries, go to

Other North Country winners included:

Second place Frederick B. Kilmer Research Award in Science went to Arielle Wolter of Gouverneur, for "Transcription Blocking Drug on mRNA Processing Factors"

Second place Ram L. Chugh North Country Research & Public Service Award went to Tabitha Brown of Heuvelton, for "'My Own Ever Loving Arvilla': Personal Correspondence Brings Life to History"

Third place Ram L. Chugh North Country Research & Public Service Award went to Cara Aguirre of Theresa, for "Global Climate Change Influences Wine Production and Tourism in Northern New York"

The Learning and Research Fair is coordinated by the Office for Student Research and Creativity, which also oversees the Presidential Scholars Program, the Kilmer Fund, the Institute for Ethical Behavior and the Honors Program. It is part of the Donald and Kathryn Lougheed Center for Applied Learning, located in the Lougheed Learning Commons. To find out more, visit