Researchers tell of making headway

Summer researchers at luncheon describe making headway

July 23, 2019
Ariel Wish '20
students presenting

Directly above, Lindsay St. Pierrre ’20, right, describes studying the agricultural sustainability of four different mulch types on the Farm at Saint Michael’s, while at left, Sarah Graham ’20 waits to tell of studying onion pests on the Farm. Photos below show President Sterritt and VPAA Jeff Trumbower addressing the researchers, and English major Danielle Joubert ’20 telling about her study of Korean cinema. (photos by Tess Beinhaur ’20)

Dedication, intellect, and exploration across multiple disciplines came together once again at the second summer research luncheon on July 19, this time held in the Dion Family Student Center.

“These luncheons are truly the highlight of our summer,” Saint Michael’s College President Lorraine Sterritt told the group of student researchers and their faculty mentors. After such an engaging first luncheon—in which each student shared his or her hopes and dreams for their next six weeks spent executing high-caliber, fully-funded research projects—all were excited to hear about what had been discovered, created, and unraveled since.

Before the students began sharing, Vice President for Academic Affairs Jeffery Trumbower (photo below right) highlighted an important part of the learning process involved in research: the “roadblocks.” He expressed that he and President Sterritt (photo below left) wanted to hear about not only the pure victories, but also the “totally unexpected—things you thought you couldn’t possibly solve, but you saw a new way around.”

As was the case with the first luncheon, the seven students calling themselves the “spider women” were the first to report their progress, findings, and hopes to the rest of the group. While the process of tracking spider nerves is happening slower than the team had expected with a lot of waiting, they still are making progress, they reported. With determination, attention to detail, and the help of specialized technology being utilized through the University of Vermont, the group is mapping spider brains, identifying protein changes, and working on tracing nerves to the brains.

President SterrittWaiting seems to be the name of the game for many of the other students who are caught in the middle of the scientific research process as well. Through trial and error, Lauren Walsh has been testing different bobcat genomes and is currently waiting for another test to come through. The e-cigarette researchers have been observing their study group’s functioning after smoking an e-cigarette, and these student-researchers are eagerly waiting on more results before they conclude their findings.

English major Madison Newman reported that, while George Elliot is known for renouncing the Christian faith, her novels carry deeply religious undertones, specifically for their female protagonists. Closely examining three Elliot novels, Newman found that Christian ethics “helps characters possess greater autonomy and enables them to better assess their own lives.”

Luna Ishum—a psychology major who last time reported that she would be choreographing a creative dance and writing a research paper to illuminate her findings on various mental states and disorders—has now gathered all her information, completed her dance piece, and is about to begin writing her paper.

Professor TrumbowerReece Pawlaczyk and Adele Pierce were happy to report that no concerning amounts of heavy metals were found in Strafford, Vermont’s Elizabeth Mine, which had been predicted as a possiblity due to the extreme amount of flooding there in the recent months.

Within the past month, Danielle Joubert (photo below left) discovered “Golden Age Cinema” as a new lens through which she could study Chan-wook Park filmography – a discovery that is helping shape her research. She reported that her biggest roadblock throughout the process has been studying Korean cinema as a “cultural outsider,” unfamiliar with the customs and traditions that embody Korean life.

Danielle Joubert '20 speaksPolitical science major Shane Coughlin’s study of democracy seems to have taken a turn toward the initially unanticipated as well, leading him to explore not only philosophical critiques of democracy—as was reported during the first luncheon—but also America’s current state of political polarization and concerns within it.

Dina Alfasar reported her findings that differences in Islamic views of race and religious can be recognized through two different lenses: age and gender. While American Muslim youth have been surrounded by western society their entire lives and therefore view their culture very differently than do their elders, females generally have more difficulty integrating into western life because of their dress. Alfasar explained that when people see a Muslim woman, they automatically know she’s Muslim on account of her head covering, saying, “She is her religion. She is her race.”

Having completed her study, Katie Merchat confidently reported her findings that inclusive classrooms are more beneficial to students with disabilities than alternative ones. She explained that while teachers of alternative methods have more knowledge of individuals with disabilities, inclusive classroom teachers are better equipped to cover material and therefore provide a more enriching education while still catering to the students’ needs.

“Once again, greetings from hell!” Allison Croce piped up when it was her turn to share, referring to both her project’s theme of Buddhist and Christian underworlds as well as to her vibrant opening from the previous luncheon. Through her research, Croce has found Buddhist hell to be “more complex and detailed than originally anticipated.”

As projects begin to wind down, each student will be writing a 200-500 word reflection of the research experience as well as thank you notes to their internal and external donors. Additionally, the researchers will be conducting formal presentations of their findings, some of which may take them and their faculty mentors to regional and national conferences in their fields of study.

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