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Falvey Scholars 2023: Zachary Boyer ’23 CLAS

Photo by Andrew McKeough ’19

The Falvey Scholars Program, established in 2002, is an annual program established by Falvey Library to recognize outstanding undergraduate research. It is a collective initiative of the Library and the Center for Research and Fellowships. Award winners are selected from candidates nominated by Villanova faculty and reviewed by Library and University staff.

This year, we honor eight students for seven outstanding projects, which reflect the strength of Villanova’s undergraduate research as well as the support the Library provides through its staff, resources, and spaces.

We are introducing our scholars and covering their research in their own words. Look for additional coverage of Zachary Boyer and the other Falvey Scholars in the fall issue of Mosaic.

Congratulations to all of our Falvey Scholars, past and present!

Zachary Boyer ’23 CLAS

Title: “Synthesis and Evaluation of the Structure Activity Relationships of Antibacterial Functionalized Dihydropyrimidine Derivatives”

Faculty Mentor: Matthew O’Reilly, PhD, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Hometown: Tamaqua, Pa.

Other Honors: Villanova Curvey Scholar, Morgans Scholar, Amcor Scholar, Latoff MS Foundation Scholar, 2022 Barry M. Goldwater Scholar, 2022 Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society Inductee

Describe your research in your own words.
Whether exploring new bond connections, developing new catalysis, or engineering selective synthetic techniques, new chemical transformations with applications in drug/therapeutic development probe my interest.

The evolution of diseases and microbes that cause diseases is as inevitable as a sold-out Villanova men’s basketball game against a Big East rival. Therefore, research toward new therapeutics is essential to ensure a healthier today and tomorrow!

My research explores the underlying chemistry in novel antibiotic development—as antibiotic resistance has become an immense threat to public health in the last decade. My focus is on effectively and efficiently synthesizing these new antibiotics and examining the necessary elements for these molecules to maximize their biological activity against bacterial strains (specifically MRSA, one of the most threatening antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria in the 21st century). I have amazing colleagues that focus on the biology of these compounds—potency, toxicity, mechanism of action, etc. Currently, my efforts are focused toward developing chemistry to enable access to photo affinity probes, which will enable my colleagues to interrogate the mechanism of action of these molecules.

How did Falvey’s resources, databases, and spaces impact your research?
Falvey Library’s resources were indispensable for the project’s success. They enabled access to hundreds of scientific journals in addition to scientific databases (Reaxys and SciFinder), which were essential in the research process, enabling the discovery of the idea for the project.

These resources also helped my colleagues and me to discover any precedent for our project, necessary elements of the project that lacked previous interrogation, and methodology for advancing the project. Lastly, Falvey’s Mendeley resource made for smooth writing—keeping all our references organized and easy to cite.

How did the Library’s staff impact your research and academic experience?
One thing prospective undergraduate students at Villanova will ask me is: “What is it that makes Villanova so great?” My response: the people!

Falvey Library’s staff was incredibly helpful and genial throughout my research/academic experience at Villanova. Whenever a resource was needed or a question arose, staff was eager to come to my aid.

What’s next for you?
I will attend Yale University as a PhD candidate in Organic Chemistry. I will also continue my research career, where I will be developing new synthetic strategies and methods in organic chemistry with applications in drug/therapeutic development. Finally, I will continue my dedication to mentorship and outreach, mentoring undergraduates and introducing children to science, especially children in underprivileged areas of New Haven, Conn.)

Shawn ProctorShawn Proctor, MFA, is Communication and Marketing Program Manager at Falvey Library.


Falvey Scholars 2023: Madeline Scolio ’23 CLAS


Photo by Andrew McKeough ’19

The Falvey Scholars Program is an annual program established by Falvey Library to recognize outstanding undergraduate research. Now in its 21st year, the program is a collective initiative of the Library and the Center for Research and Fellowships. The recipients of this award are selected from a pool of candidates nominated by Villanova faculty and reviewed by Library staff.

This year, eight students received awards for seven different projects, and their work reflects the breadth and depth of undergraduate research at the University as well as the support the Library, its resources and staff, provide student-scholars.

The blog will introduce our scholars and cover their research in their own words. Look for additional coverage of the Falvey Scholars in the fall issue of Mosaic.

Congratulations to all of our Falvey Scholars, past and present!

Madeline Scolio ’23 CLAS

Title: “Modeling the Relationship Between Surface and Air Temperature and Implications for Urban Sustainability and Well-Being in Philadelphia”

Faculty Mentors: Peleg Kremer, PhD, and Samer Abboud, PhD, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Hometown: Woodstock, Ill.

Other Honors: Alexander von Humboldt Medallion for Excellence in Geography, Cosmas Indicopleustes Medallion for Excellence in Global Interdisciplinary Studies, NSF Supplemental Grant from the National Science Foundation, Presidential Scholarship, Villanova Undergraduate Research Fellowship, Seamus Heaney Honors Program Writing Award

Describe your research in your own words.

Currently, it is common practice to use remotely sensed surface temperature as a proxy for air temperature in studies of urban heat and microclimate. It has been established that surface temperature is not a good proxy for air temperature. Thus my research revolves around creating a spatiotemporal model that related the surface temperature to air temperature in order to improve the quality of temperature data available for Philadelphia. I also worked to highlight human well-being and sustainability issues around the city that could benefit from this improved data.

How did Falvey’s resources, databases, and spaces impact your research?

In the Fall, I struggled with finding an approach to my project that would highlight its broad application in social and scientific domains and interdisciplinary nature. During this time, I met with Director of Research Services & Scholarly Engagement Jutta Seibert who helped guide my research towards questions of urban sustainability. This meeting was extremely helpful in narrowing down the focus of the geographic information systems (GIS) portion of my thesis while still complementing the more geotechnical question I was investigating. More specifically, she introduced me to Oxford Bibliographies which were extremely useful in building the urban sustainability and human well-being backbone of my project.

How did Falvey’s resources and databases impact your research?

The resources available through the Falvey Library website were critical in facilitating the foundational and explanatory research for my thesis project. I found it helpful to search for similar terms in different databases and compare the results. For example, I searched for literature relating to urban sustainability in both Scopus and JSTOR and got completely different results. This was extremely useful in situating my geotechnical research in a broader context.

Beyond that, I used the website to gain access to journal articles that informed the development of my methods and to gain a comprehensive understanding of a relatively novel field. For example, mobile air temperature monitoring has been conducted on foot, by bike and by car with each method having its own limitations and advantages. Understanding the methods of other researchers was useful in helping weigh the pros and cons of each method and ultimately deciding to collect my data by car. Through the many journals I was able to access through Falvey, I was able to participate in a long history of academic collaboration by building upon the work of other researchers.

What’s next for you?

I am taking a year off to work, travel, apply to graduate school, and spend time with loved ones. After that, I am planning on getting a master’s degree in architecture and urban planning.

Shawn ProctorShawn Proctor, MFA, is Communication and Marketing Program Manager at Falvey Library.


Celebrate the official launch of the 2023 issue of CONCEPT

Please join us on Friday, April 28 from 3:00-4:30 p.m. in the Larson Kelly Auditorium (Room 132) and Atrium in Driscoll Hall, as we celebrate the official launch of the 2023 issue of CONCEPT, the interdisciplinary journal of graduate students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS). The ceremony will recognize this year’s Graduate Research Prize for top paper, along with all of the student authors and editors, faculty editors, and peer reviewers.

CONCEPT accepts submissions from Villanova graduate students in all fields of the arts and sciences and is an opportunity for them to share their scholarship and research. Last year’s edition featured papers covering a range of subjects including Theatre, Psychology, English, History, Political Science, Philosophy, Human Resources Development, and Classical Studies.

The 2023 edition of CONCEPT marks the 46th release of the journal. This ACS-Approved event, co-sponsored by Falvey Library, the Office of Graduate Studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the Center for Graduate Research and Education, is free and open to the public.

Please REGISTER for the CONCEPT Recognition Ceremony. Once registered, you will be sent a link to the event.

Visit the CONCEPT website to learn more about the journal and to browse past volumes.



Join CLAS for the Graduate Student Research Symposium

Flyer for the CLAS Graduate Research Symposium.

Join the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) for the Graduate Student Research Symposium on Friday, Nov. 12, from 1-4 p.m. Oral presentations will begin at 1 p.m. in the Connelly Center Cinema. Poster presentations will begin at 2:30 p.m. in the St. David’s Room.

Each year, graduate students in CLAS submit proposals for the Graduate Summer Research Fellowship. This event highlights the recipients of the 2021 fellowship. Student projects encompass a wide range of scholarship from various disciplines including theology, English, philosophy, psychology, biology, history, math, chemistry, counseling, environmental science, and software engineering.

Students will present their research with a poster or a Three Minute Thesis-style oral presentation. For a full list of presenters, check out the symposium program.

Be sure to stop by and see the innovative research being conducted by graduate students in CLAS.

Kallie Stahl ’17 MA is Communication and Marketing Specialist at Falvey Memorial Library.




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Balancing the Scales of Justice: Meet Brett Schratz, 2020 Falvey Scholar

By Shawn Proctor

This is part 1 of a 6-part series featuring the 2020 Falvey Scholars. Read more about them each Tuesday and Thursday, and in the upcoming issue of Mosaic, the library’s bi-annual publication.

“Wild Facts”

Brett Schratz ’20 (Political Science, Philosophy, Honors majors)
Hometown: Plymouth Meeting, PA

Faculty Mentor: Sally Scholz, PhD, Professor and Department Chair, Philosophy Department

Additional Honors: Phi Beta Kappa, 2020 College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Commencement Speaker, Helen S. Lang History of Philosophy Award, Phi Sigma Tau, Summa Cum Laude

Research: “Rawls on “The Hard Question” for LGBTQ Rights: Are Religious Exemptions Just?”

In His Own Words

Brett’s research:
A complex and contentious issue in political theory and even in our society is the inherent tension between liberty and equality. We especially see this in the case of religious exemptions from providing services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (or queer) (LGBTQ) people. My research explores this sticky question by applying John Rawls’s theory of justice as fairness in the case of Fulton v. City of Philadelphia. I argue that religious exemptions are unjust and that they unduly harm LGBTQ equality, according to Rawls’s principles of justice.
Falvey’s Impact on His Work:
Before I decided to use John Rawls’s philosophy, I needed to explore a variety of thinkers before settling on one. Dr. Scholz and I used the librarians’ support to navigate the vast number of works to read and investigate further.
I used Falvey’s Philosophy subject guide, multiple databases, cross-loan book program, and the Philosopher’s Index to accumulate all my secondary literature. I managed to compile helpful and pertinent sources to add depth to my research.
The Impact on Him:
I plan on going to law school or onto a doctoral program. I hope to spend my career navigating these same issues in the legal system as well as in legal scholarship. However, I plan on expanding the scope of my research to other areas beyond LGBTQ rights.
The tension between liberty and equality can quickly turn hostile and I do not want to see religious liberty perverted into unjust discrimination.
What’s next:
I am joining the American Civil Liberties Union National as a Paralegal for their National Voting Rights Project. I will be working in public policy and affairs.

Shawn ProctorShawn Proctor, MFA, is Communications and Marketing Program Manager at Falvey Memorial Library.




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Biologist, Philosopher, Researcher, Falvey Scholar: Meet Elizabeth “Libby” O’Brien

Elizabeth O'Brien award

Elizabeth “Libby” O’Brien receives the Falvey Scholar Award from Associate University Librarian for Collections and Stewardship Jeehyun “Jee” Davis.



This is part 2 of a 6-part series featuring the 2019 Falvey Scholars. Read more about them every Tuesday and in the upcoming issue of Mosaic: the library’s bi-annual publication.


Scholarly Stats:

Elizabeth “Libby” O’Brien ’19 CLAS

Hometown: Portland, Maine

Faculty Mentor: Samantha Chapman, PhD, associate professor of Biology

Research: Foliar water uptake in ecotonal mangroves which are expanding with climate change

Other Honors: Fulbright U.S. Student Program award winner, will continue her thesis work analyzing mangrove ecology and environmental ethics in the Philippines.


In her own words:

Libby’s Research:

While working with Drs. Chapman and Matthew Hayes in a Florida saltmarsh on their research analyzing mangrove ecology in the face of climate change, I began to ponder about an idea that would become my thesis question: “What if mangroves supplement their water needs not from their roots, where they are competing with the marsh species, but through their leaves?”

At Villanova in the fall, the three of us sat down and revisited that question. In our preliminary literature review, we found evidence that a number of plant species use foliar water uptake across ecosystems, particularly where water availability can be limited such as high, mountainous elevations and dry, arid environments.

Mangroves are specialized plants that live in salty water. Due to the high salinity concentration of their soils, they are often under water stress as they need to extract, and filter water out of this salty environment to meet their physiological demands. In short, mangroves are living under pseudo-drought conditions. However, coastal mangroves sometimes encounter sea mist and fog, leading us to believe that they may utilize foliar water uptake in a similar way to other plants living under drought conditions.

Our second research question was “Do different mangrove species exhibit varying degrees of foliar water uptake?”

Elizabeth O'Brien PresentingWe aimed to answer this second question to provide evidence for existing geographic distributions of specific mangroves species and their projected future encroachment patterns.

To test our hypotheses, we built airtight chambers and placed the three different species of mangroves inside of them. We used humidifiers to mimic morning fog enriched with a tracer that could be detected by a machine in the lab after the experiment. Since we sealed off the soil from the rest of the plant, (meaning that the soil was not moistened by the fog), any tracer detected in the leaves of the mangroves would indicate foliar water uptake.

Using statistical analyses, we could identify trends in the data to answer both of our research questions. Once in the lab, we did detect the tracer in all of the species, pointing to some foliar water uptake, but we also discovered problems in our experimentation methods. This meant that while our results were promising, there were a few possibilities as to why they were what they were.

However, the three of us do not take this as a failure. If we had not done the experiment, we would not have known that mangroves exhibit some foliar water uptake; and even if it is impossible to parse out the differences in foliar water uptake across species at this time, we have a solid research process on which to build on moving forward.

Setbacks like this are not only common, they are inevitable. We are currently in the process of re-examining our methods to produce more reliable results. Moreover, I come away with a confidence in my ability as a woman in science moving on to answer the next questions.


Libby’s “Falvey Experience”:

In order to begin the development of my research questions, and throughout every subsequent step of my thesis, I needed to be a sponge for information. At first, it was overwhelming to experience a total information overload, but three things kept my project focused and achievable.

The access that Falvey’s online resources provided proved invaluable. The access that I was able to have to high profile academic journals and niche, often international journals, as well as published theses exposed me to the diverse and interdisciplinary research within the realm of mangrove ecology.Libby O'Brien

For the articles that were not immediately available to me, I used interlibrary loan. I was able to develop my experimental design from one article that I got through the interlibrary loan system, a resource that then-research librarian Robin Bowles (now the director of Libraries at Montgomery County Community College) pointed me towards—she was instrumental in my successful thesis completion.

Her knowledge and experience for sifting through endless articles and culling searches gave me papers that addressed my specific questions. I live-chatted with her in one instance which enabled me to get help from the library and keep working.

Finally, Falvey Memorial Library provided me with the space to work and collaborate with my mentors, a contribution that I cannot ignore. The 24-hour access to workspaces, printers, and online resources eliminated many of the obstacles a commuter student like myself might have faced in order to finish my thesis on a deadline.

Over this past year, at the back left square table of the library Holy Grounds, Dr. Chapman, Dr. Hayes, and myself drank endless cups of coffee and discussed how our mangrove foliar water uptake results fit into the larger conversation of coastal climate change.


The Impact on Her:

From Florida saltmarshes to Mendel Science Center, climate change challenges our status quo. As a soon to be graduate from a rigorous Augustinian institution, I am equipped with the skills to analyze, engage with, and speak about the processes behind the issues that affect our everyday lives.

My thesis, an investigation into foliar water uptake as a potential water acquisition strategy in mangrove species, offers a contribution to the scientific community in the context of coastal ecosystem ecology, as well as to Villanova University as an example of what a student committed to conducting research can achieve.

From the completion of my thesis, I have learned that the hardest part about research is narrowing the focus of your questions because analyzing the implications in the larger scheme of things comes later. I have learned that I respond well to a mentorship style that gives me the space to try and fail and re-try lab techniques, and that it is essential to take advantage to the resources available.

Falvey Memorial Library facilitated so much of my research success; from that, I have grown to have a passion for asking and answering research questions.

What’s Next:

After my Fulbright U.S. Student experience, I am planning to attend graduate school. I aim to continue this work but also integrate my research in philosophy in the coming years as I pursue a doctorate that blends ecological research with ethical considerations in a project that explores mangrove productivity and success through a lens of anthropogenic influence.

My mentors’ attention to both of these interests throughout this year motivated me to pursue a career that combines science and policy advocacy.

Shawn Proctor

Shawn Proctor, MFA, is communications and marketing program manager at Falvey Memorial Library.



Last Modified: June 11, 2019

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