15th Annual Capstone Festival Moves Online to Showcase Undergraduate Research

One of the defining features of an MBU education is that, working one-on-one with a faculty advisor, every senior creates a final research project before graduating. The most impressive of these essays, research posters, and creative projects are then nominated for inclusion in Mary Baldwin’s annual Capstone Festival. One of the university’s most cherished academic events, it brings underclassmen, faculty, staff, and community members together to honor these exemplary senior students. While this year’s festival was moved to an online format due to the COVID-19 crisis, Capstone 2020 still highlights the excellence of undergraduate scholarship at Mary Baldwin. 

“I am so proud of our MBU seniors, some of whom had to finish their senior projects remotely after classes moved online due to the pandemic,” said Beth Easterling, assistant professor of criminal justice and co-coordinator of Undergraduate Research and High Impact Practices. “Despite the difficult conditions in the world right now, our students worked to produce meaningful and impressive research projects for this year’s virtual Capstone Festival. Thanks to all of our participants for their outstanding work.”

Usually the Capstone Festival involves a full day of in-person presentations, discussions, judging sessions, and a final awards ceremony. This year, participants transformed the presentation aspect of their projects into written summaries, geared toward a general audience, that accompanied digital submissions of scholarly arguments, research posters, and artwork. The Capstone committee and faculty volunteers served as judges, considering criteria such as creativity, challenge, execution, and communication. 

New to the festival this year is the Quantitative Award, given to a student who demonstrates excellent quantitative analysis — including mathematical, statistical, or other quantitative manipulation of data — in his or her project. 

All projects will be posted on the Capstone website before Commencement, and top honors in three categories, the quantitative award, and the Advisory Board of Visitors (ABV) Capstone Senior Project Fellowship awards (which support senior projects during the 2020–21 academic year) were announced on May 8 via MBU’s social media channels.  

The ABV also provided sponsorship for cash prizes that accompanied the Capstone awards, as well as monetary support for the juniors who received fellowships for next year’s research projects. 

Congratulations to the following students for winning 2020 Capstone Festival awards.

Top Honors: Extended Abstracts

Rebecca Balzan ’20
The Nullification Crisis: A Constitutional Battle or a Personal Feud?

Project Advisor: Clayton Brooks, assistant professor of history

Academic Advisor: Mary Hill Cole, professor of history

From Palm Coast, Florida, Rebecca Balzan is a history and political science major with minors in studio art and leadership studies. Balzan is commissioning into the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant this May and plans to attend law school after her service.

Top Honors: Posters I and Art Portfolio

Emileann Quick ’20
The Abundance of Escherichia coli in Local, Organic Poultry vs. Commercially Produced Brand

Project Advisor: Paul Deeble, professor of biology

Academic Advisor: Susie Schmeissing, assistant director of MBU Online

Emileann Quick is a biology major from Greenville. She is graduating in May and looking to find a job in a laboratory.

Top Honors: Posters II

Victoria Moore ’20
The Effect of Levonorgestrel on Breast Cancer Progression

Project Advisor: Melissa Scheiber, assistant professor of biology

Academic Advisor: Paul Deeble, professor of biology 

From Mineral, Victoria Moore is a biology major with a minor in chemistry. In the fall, she will enter a dual degree PhD/Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program at Virginia Tech, and begin working in a lab investigating the herpes simplex virus for her PhD studies in biomedical and veterinary sciences.

Quantitative Award

Elizabeth Fitzer ’20
The Influence of the C5a Receptor on Ovarian Cancer Progression

Project Advisor: Melissa Scheiber, assistant professor of biology

Academic Advisor: Paul Deeble, professor of biology


From Bedford, Elizabeth Fitzer is a biology major with a biomedical emphasis. She works as a medical scribe at a primary care office and plans to attend a physician’s assistant master’s program after graduation.

2020–21 Advisory Board of Visitors Capstone Senior Project Fellowship Awardees

Brielle Brown ’21, The Effects of 17 alpha-hydroxyprogesterone caproate on Breast Cancer Cell Activity, Project Advisors: Paul Deeble and Melissa Scheiber

Eleanor Hilgart ’21, The effect of a biological scaffold in combination with basic fibroblast growth factor on wound healing activity of mouse fibroblasts, Project Advisors: Paul Deeble and Melissa Scheiber

Cory Martin ’21, The Effects of Carbohydrate Intake on Fertility, Project Advisor: Brian Miller

Felicia Maziarz ’21, Sapphire Springs: An Exploration of the American Western, Project Advisor: Martha Saunders

Kylie Stottlemyer ’21, Into the Storm: Bridging the Gap Between Law Enforcement and Victims Through the Implementation of a Community Policing Paradigm, Project Advisor: Beth Easterling

Thanks to the following sponsors for their generous support:

Ambassador Sponsor

Augusta Health 

ITA International LLC

Investor Sponsor

Charles W. Henck

Associate Sponsor

Mark D. Journell

Friend Sponsors

Cynthia Burnette

Glenda C. Western, CPA 1986

Mary Satterfield

Personal Donor

Brian McRyenolds

Leigh Frame