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Sunday, July 3, 2022

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Sofia Bianconi Sofia Bianconi

Annual Symposium Celebrates Student Research

Sofia Bianconi’s experience in the Student Research Symposium confirmed she is “on the right path” with her research and career.
By Kellie Woodhouse

“The Student Research Symposium is a great opportunity for our students to highlight their research, scholarship and creative activities.”

Sofia Bianconi is a very busy senior.

Yet between her studies in criminal justice and psychology, her research analyzing sex offender supervision conditions throughout the nation, and her part-time job at the county clerk’s office marrying couples — Bianconi still found the time to feel a growing sense of trepidation prior to participating in San Diego State University’s 14th annual Student Research Symposium (SRS) last month.

“I kept second-guessing myself and doubting myself, but after I started engaging with the judges I felt supported,” she said. “The judges said they could see my work being applied in real life and having meaningful change. It reassured me that I am on the right path.”

Bianconi was one of nearly 300 students who participated in SRS, which took place virtually March 19-20. Nearly 175 faculty, staff, alumni and community members participated as judges and moderators.

More than 50 student participants received awards, including 10 Presidential Award winners, who will represent SDSU during the system-wide California State University competition taking place virtually April 30 and May 1. SDSU distributed nearly $17,000 in cash prizes.

Bianconi won the College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts Dean’s Award for her presentation unpacking the complicated —and often varied — probation and parole supervision conditions of convicted sex offenders.

“The Student Research Symposium is a great opportunity for our students to highlight their research, scholarship and creative activities. Their work shows dedication, insight and remarkable adaptability,” said Hala Madanat, interim vice president for research and innovation. “In the midst of a global pandemic, they have contributed to projects that have a meaningful impact on society.”

Embracing Research

When Bianconi transferred to SDSU after completing two years at San Diego Miramar College, she thought she wanted to become a lawyer. She was interested in criminal justice and quickly made a connection with public affairs professor Kimberly Kras, who teaches the class “Crime and Behavior.”

Bianconi joined Kras’ research team on sex offenders, working with Kras to build a database of probation and parole supervision conditions from all 50 states. Her research has found that post-incarceration restrictions vary widely, and are not always congruent with best practices or current research.

“The end goal for this project is to create a repository website with all this information that probation and parole agencies, the federal government and researchers can access as they analyze what’s effective in managing sex offenders,” Bianconi said.

Kras said Bianconi’s legal education and data management skills were instrumental in moving the project forward, allowing the research team to apply for a grant to create the repository. For Bianoconi, it has been rewarding to work on research that could support the development of evidence-based strategies to improve the criminal justice system.

“I started to rethink things and realize this is what I want to do for the rest of my life,” she said. Participating in SRS helped solidify that feeling. “I ended my presentation really just being grateful for SRS and my research experience at SDSU.”

Without that experience, Bianconi said she never would have applied for, or been accepted into, the University of California Irvine’s Masters of Legal and Forensic Psychology program, which she plans to attend in the fall.