The Office of Student Research is proud to feature Helena Loucas in this week’s “Scholar Story”.

Helena Loucas, a sophomore at Longwood University, is majoring in Biology and she is also a member of the Cormier Honors College for Citizen Scholars. Helena is conducting her research as part of the Longwood Environmental Observatory (LEO).  Working with her faculty mentor, Dr. Kenneth Fortino, Helena has been collecting data to study the macroinvertebrates present in two human constructed ponds local to Farmville and analyzing the data to determine if there is a significant trend in macroinvertebrate distribution. Helena says that past research has shown that different habitats can affect the community structure of macroinvertebrates in a model called the "habitat templet”. It’s also known that human disturbances to aquatic systems often weaken macroinvertebrate communities. This led her to question how changes to a habitat would also change the community structure within that ecosystem. Through her research, she seeks to determine how human alteration of aquatic systems affect macroinvertebrate communities.

Helena shared that by “working with Dr. Kenneth Fortino, I’ve been able to investigate my passion in a way that has already prepared me so much for my future.”

Participating in independent research has taught Helena many valuable skills including learning how to effectively collect and analyze data. Helena said that through research “I’ve had practice using data analysis software and I’ve learned how to feel comfortable and confident when presenting my work at a scientific conference. I have become so confident in my skills as a scientist through my work with LEO and now I know what I want to focus on when I apply to graduate programs.”

Helena’s favorite part of doing research has been “working side by side with my friend and research partner, Lucy Ellis ’25. We have been sharing a lab space for a year now, and it’s been very helpful to have a friend nearby. I believe science is a collaborative discipline and part of that means sharing the excitement of my first properly identified sample, any new organisms, and other discoveries.” 

Helena is looking forward to presenting her research at a scientific conference in March.

After graduation, Helena plans to earn her PhD and study the effects of changes in habitats on community structure distribution. After that, she would like to work for the Environmental Protection Agency, like her grandparents did.

Congratulations to Helena on her successful research!

If you would like to have your research featured in a “Scholar Story”, or if you would like to learn more about getting involved in research at Longwood University, please visit Longwood’s Office of Student Research website

or contact Amorette Barber, Director of the Office of Student Research ( or