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Research Excellence

Katherine Petralia receives the 2023 Excellence in Undergraduate Research Award.

The 2023 CSH Excellence in Undergraduate Research Award was granted to Katherine Petralia, an Environmental Science and Studies student with a passion for ecology and a double major in Theatre. The award acknowledges innovative and exceptional achievement in conducting original research at the undergraduate level.

Petralia's interest in ecology led to independent projects and field research for her thesis, which explores the impact of prescribed burns on local air quality.  Prescribed​ burns are implemented to restore natural ecosystems and are a common ecological management tool but can have significant air quality effects. Petralia independently measured air quality at a series of burns in McHenry and Cook Counties in Illinois to collect data for the research, often under challenging conditions. Her extensive data analysis resulted in a presentation at the American Geophysical Union's Meeting in Fall 2022. She also took the lead on several aspects of a field research project at the Eglin Air Force Base in Florida measuring particulate matter with low-cost sensors. Her ingenuity and persistence led to innovations in new software development to aid data collection. Her maker mentality further extends to the classroom, where she recently designed a novel shaker table to simulate the impact of tremors on the biomass of various plants in an Applied Ecology class.

Petralia's thesis research also culminated in a peer-reviewed publication in the latest issue of DePaul Discoveries, the College's undergraduate research journal. The full article can be accessed online here. Congratulations to Katherine on her research accomplishments and this award!​