Poster session buzzes with scholarly energy on Saturday

Saturday, 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Dion Student Center
Poster Session

At the top of the Dion main staircase before entering the large Roy Event Room where the majority of students with posters could be found late Saturday morning and early afternoon were Melissa Hickox and Patrick Cornacchio, history and theater  majors, respectively, Theater pairwhose projects centered on their deep involvement with this year’s fall Mainstage play, The Crucible, based on the Salem witch trials. Patrick is actually from Salem, MA, and  so felt a special connection to the production, for which he did “dramaturgy.” This involves “mixing in historical pieces with fantastical elements” to provide “a semblance of reality” to the production, “grounding it in its truthfulness, blending theatrical interpretation with the actual historical story in this case.” He also helped show how the play remains relevant to modern issues like Islamophobia, racism and fundamental fear of the unknown. Melissa, of Long Island, was stage manager, which amounted to “running the show from start to finish” as far as day-to-day logistics, in consultation with the director.

Fine Arts/art Professor Brian Collier pointed out the impressive work of his student, Victoria Hellwig ’16 of Saratoga Springs, NY, whose project “Green Paintings” involved designing miniature “green walls” that are  fully modular and self-contained systems. Originally the plan was for Victoria to use VPAA summer research funds to help with a full-size Green Wall for Cheray Science Hall, but with another plan already in place there, she came up with the alternative igreen paintingsdea after long talks with Collier, of smaller “green paintings.” Collier says they have “all the benefits of green wall in small system with irrigation, light, ready to grow – just plug it in and spray occasionally with a mister.”

A nice piece in Victoria’s project was teamwork from Saint Michael’s Special Events and Facilities Staff, who helped her secure and fabricate the boxes that became her “green paintings.”  Collier said he’d never seen a complete system like his student’s creations, “and what I have seen along these lines are usually not this attractive, frankly.” Victoria said, “I started in September and finished in the spring.” One of her three green paintings on display was an herb garden, since she’s also a cook and wanted to be able to have fresh herbs readily available to pick, hanging on her kitchen wall. The senior environmental studies major said she used succulents for her other two creations since they require less water. “The purpose of the project was to include more greenery in working spaces,” said Victoria, who would like to be “an activist in some way, reconnecting people with nature -- and art is a good medium to do so.”

The whole bright hallway area beneath the Dion solarium again this year was filled with posters from psychology students who had year-long internships at local social-service agencies, schools, senior centers and alcohol rehabs. It gives them such a leg up in job-hunts, said Dave Landers, who oversees the department’s senior practicum. “I had people working everywhere from homes for adults with schizophrenia, to the Arbors for folks with Alzheimer’s, with Camp Ta Kum Ta kids with cancer, to  Art from the Heart for kids at the hospital, to local elementary schools in Winooski,” he said, noting  a recent study by Gallup touted by Saint Michael’s President Jack Neuhauser at a recent gathering, showing that graduates were happier and more fulfilled who engaged in an intense and extended experience, as his students experience. “We’re the only school in the Northeast as far as I know that has a two-semester practicum,” he said, “so our students are out in the community 8 to 10 hours a week on site, then back in class 2.5 hours, so they get to hear of all the other experiences to enrich their perspectives. “They’ve learned how to expand their world view to incorporate so much of the rest of the world that we tend not to see unless you get out into the community to see it,” Landers said.

For example, senior psychology major Liz Bradley of Lawrence, MA, (religious studies minor) worked at Burlington’s Lakeview House with adult schizophrenic adults for an entire year. “I’d done so much with youth already and I wanted to try working with an older population, something that could directly impact what I might do for the rest of my life.” She just was accepted to graduate school at Assumption College in Massachusetts to study family therapy, she said. Her parents, David and Anne Bradley, looked on proudly. “She’s always had good people and situational skills, but in the four years she’s been in college we’ve definitely seen change – more refined, more assured, and I think a lot of that was furthered by the College. They really helped her focus and refine those skills,” said David. Anne said her daughter has “taken control of her college experience and made the best of it. The school loans we’ll be paying off the next 10 years were well worth the investment.” They’ve already booked quarters to return for Commencement in a few weeks, they said.Breen psychology

Like several other psychology students, MacKenzie Breen of Barre, VT (photo at right) was placed with Team Phoenix, an alternative classroom in the Winooski school district for kids with emotional disturbances or cognitive disabilities in grades 5-8. Based on her good experience there reaching  young clients in what felt to her like a meaningful way,  MacKenzie said she  would consider such work for a career, and has accepted a job to help staff a similar program in her hometown following graduation.

Down the aisles of science- and math-related posters, Alexandra Brown from St. Albans, VT, described summer research with DNA, “making it construct itself into different objects.” She keyed on a shape called a “Torus Knot, a donut-shaped object. It has possible medical applications or possibly in manufacturing, she said.

Michelle Oberling of Shelburne, VT was looking at ways to reverse effects of anticoagulants, mostly prescribed to those with atrial fibrillation to prevent strokes. That’s important in a scenario with unexpected emergency bleeding, like a car accident. She’s an EMT for Saint Michael’s Rescue Squad and knows first-hand the importance of this for certain patients she encounters.  Present medications have practical drawbacks, so her study explored ways to create better ones.

Ellen Murchie, Westminster, MA, did a research proposal on using viruses to treat pancreatic cancer, one of the worst diagnoses in terms of survival. “We’re hoping by using a virus, we can kill just cancer and not healthy cells,” with clinical trials in this area being done for other types of cancer. She heard Saint Michael’s alumnus and leading international cancer-researcher Pam Carroll ’86 speak on campus last year, which gave her the idea for her  project, Ellen said.Ushkow hops

Daniel Ushkow, from Albany, NY, last summer got to work with the UVM extension program researching methods of organic pest control for hops in VT, seeing which bio-fungicides work best in getting rid of downy mildew, a huge  problem for VT hops growers. “It keeps them from making money at present” Dan said, despite the growing craft-beer industry in the state. His work helped confirm that presently used agents still work best, saving farmers “a lot of money and troubles” had they tried other less effective new offerings on the market, he said. Dan would love to do applied agricultural research for a career, perhaps even in the hops industry.

Julia WagnerJulia Wagner  ’16 of South Burlington, VT, is an English major but did a project related more to history, involving in-depth interviews and story-telling. She wrote and did her poster on an oral history of the first woman welder at the Charlestown Navy Yard during World War II – a woman now in her 90s who Julia has known since high school, from helping her around the house. That remarkable woman, Peggy Citarella, is also the widow of longtime Saint Michael’s classics Professor Armand Citarella. “She’s still being recognized today for her work,” said Julia of this powerful role-model.

Business students from Robert Letovsky’s  class Ethical Issues in Business – mostly junior and senior business and accounting majors, talked and had posters about a range of topics: concealed carry of firearms, paying NCAA athletes, fracking, ethics of the Cocoa Industry, Big Tobacco and fast food marketing, and CEO pay, to name a few.  Marissa Landry of the CEO Pay group (four students) said her biggest take-away was that “CEO’s are paid too much.” But a teammate said he thought it was not that clear-cut and depended on the industry. Still, all agreed, the relation of CEO salaries to bottom line compared to 50 years ago is shocking. The Fracking group concluded “it’s hard to justify saying no to fracking,” given that only the EPA is alleging problems that it can’t prove, and given that the economic benefits outweigh that in the group’s estimation.  Andrew Brown, an accounting major from Cheshire, CT is an EMT for Rescue but took an interest in high frequency trading after reading “The Big Short.” “I think it made me more confused on the effects on markets to be honest,” said Brown, who is going to keep looking into it.

Loisel CollierA science professor's perspective: Professor Dagan Loisel of the biology faculty (far left in photo at left, with Art Professor Brian Collier admiring student work in the poster session) said he was blown away by students from math senior seminar who had used high-tech tools in the “Maker’s Space” downstairs in Dion to do 3D printing. “I’ve seen a nice diversity of departments and programs,” said Loisel, who had several students do meaningful research just in the course of a semester class, using DNA sequencing of common food items like fish/sushi to compare with labels. Not everything is actually what the label says, they concluded. “It’s a good example of what you can do within an actual course and complete full studies, “said Loisel, adding that others with posters were showing long-term research from one or more summer. “Money we get for supporting student research from the VPAA and trustees doesn’t end after they’re done – the impact keeps going” in classes and later presentations, he said. “Everything’s related.”

Those senior math seminar students he so admired took a minute to show the amazing shapes they had 3D-printed, and explained the math behind them. Marcy Daley of Haverhill, NH, did a Mobius Strip, which is a lot like mechanical belts in cars or machines. She majors in elementary education and math and thinks her future students would enjoy such projects. Three D printingKristin McCarthy, with environmental studies and math for majors, did “Stereographic Projections of Loxodromes,” which for her involved taking the lines from Mercator projection maps and making them 3D into “spherical spirals that go on forever.” She showed the complex computer code she used in the printing. “First it was a solid ball and then when printed after an alcohol bath, some dissolves away and what’s left is the shape.“ She just was accepted to graduate school at University of Delaware for a master’s of geological sciences, “hoping to work on rivers and water chemistry.”

Angela Irvine, a member of Undergraduate Research Council for the College, said the College staff helping Victoria was a great example of how much Symposium is a campus-wide team effort. This year it was expanded to include five days of events: fine arts performances, then the MJD even, and Experiential Showcase leading to Friday’s and Saturday’s presentations and posters “ I still feel we can expand it even more, with a lot of interest in students and their abilities and showcasing their accomplishments--  and we have a lot to be proud of. Our students do great work when given a chance, and they show it well. It gives them important skills that help them in the job market.”

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