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College of Science and Mathematics

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Students Place First and Second at CSU Student Research Competition


John Stepanek presents his research on stress hormones and color in rattlesnakes at the CSU Student Research Competition. Photo // Jay Thompson

Biology senior John Stepanek took home first place in the undergraduate Biological and Agricultural Sciences category at the 31st annual California State University Student Research Competition. David Bilger, a chemist r y student, and Laura Fleischman, a physics student , placed second in their categories.

Stepanek worked with faculty advisor Emily Taylor on a first-of-its-kind study of the effects of elevated corticosterone, a stress hormone, on color in Southern Pacif ic Rattlesnakes, which are common on the Central Coast.

“Our results indicated that natural environmental st ressors such as drought, climate change or predation might trigger increased contrast to help rattlesnakes camouflage and avoid detection,” Stepanek said.

Bilger worked with Professor Shanju Zhang and focused on printable solar cells, and Fleischman investigated black holes with Professor Scott Fraser.

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