Student posters offer a feast of scholarship

Read some “snapshots” of the breadth of offerings during the poster session component of Saint Michael’s College’s Academic Symposium 2015 on Saturday, April 25:

Psyched: The whole bright hallway area beneath the Dion solarium 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. “They spend 8 to 10 hours in the community applying what they’ve learned in psychology classes over 4 years, then processing back in class with me,” he said. “Graduate schools and employers love it that our students have a year of experience and are ready to go right back in the work world.” Edmilse Diaz of Boston, MA, a senior, worked for a year at a residential home for schizophrenics in Burlington. “It’s one of the hardest internships offered, so I just took the challenge, “she said. “It was hard at first, but good after a while” -- so good that now she might want to work with this population in her job search upon graduation, Diaz said. Morgan Breen of Lynnbrook, NY, said enjoyed working at McCauley Square in Burlington with dementia and Alzheimer patients – even when some days it meant doing no more than sitting and being with clients as her contribution, but that was worthwhile to her, she said, and some clients came to remember her despite their illness.

The Scientific Method … and bad sushi: Biology Professor Dagan Loisel described the science posters he helped corral for the display: some were individual, others by groups, depending largely on whether the research behind it was independent grant-funded from individual summer work, or class-based. "A lot of them here have presented at national and regional conferences," he said, and one student worked with him on bobcat genetics research over two full summers, funded first through the Biology Department and then through Vermont Genetics Network. “It’s an example of really motivated students being able to do a long-term study,” he said.

An example of class-based research was a team of four women who all love sushi and decided for their population and evolutionary genetics course with Loisel to buy sushi from local restaurants and stores in order to test genetically if it was, in fact, what it was being sold as among tuna species. Turns out, in many cases, it wasn’t, which was both interesting and unsettling to Lauren Haskins ’15 (Williamstown, MA), Courtney Pinto ’15 (Norfolk, MA), Eliza McDonald ’17 (Quincy, MA) and Abby Harvey ’17 (West Rutland). They used DNA extraction and “fancy lab procedures to sequence base-pairs,” illustrated in color-coding on their poster, as they expertly explained. One Winooski restaurant’s “tuna sushi” actually tested with 99 percent certainty as a fish species banned in Japan and Italy that is oily, waxy and can cause gastro-intestinal distress, they said. Many others were not as advertised either, they said. All the group members said they hope to work in labs as a likely prelude to medical school applications.

Chemical reaction to literature: Kim Brady’15, a chemistry major from Morristown, NJ, had one of the more intimidating-looking posters with its complex chemistry notations explaining the work of a study that interested her for a “literary review” in a class. The study involved the discovery of inhibitors “that will try to alleviate and cure diseases like ALS, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s,” she said.

At play with drama: Anna Forger ’17 is a theater and English double-major from New Hampshire who became a “dramaturgist” – a theater historian – for a recent Main Stage production of an ancient Roman play, The Menaechmus Twins, in McCarthy Arts Center. Her poster right by the door leading to the main display area, accompanied by a neatly tabulated notebook packed with information, showed in bright colors how she found the play's roots in Greek mythology, made connections to Shakespeare and brought key information to the actors on Roman stock characters – and she also appeared in the production. “The theater professors ask me to do presentations since there are not a lot of posters from the department, so I presented at the Dean’s Reception twice -- my first year on a costume I made and wore in a production, and a couple weeks ago on stage management that got me to the Kennedy Center Festival. I guess I just like presenting!” she said.

Another Mission Accomplished: Joshua Millner, a former Navy corpsman and longstanding advocate for student-veterans on campus, said that he and his project partners, fellow senior business majors Isabelle Carter and Katherine Copp, were troubled by two parallel statistics that at first seemed unrelated: that 2.7 million dogs are euthanized each year, and that about 22 veterans commit suicide every day. “We wanted to change some of those numbers,” Millner said, explaining how the group came up with the solution of starting a program to train dogs for matching with veterans who can sign up for such a match. “I love dogs and am a veteran, and she loves dogs and she loves veterans, so it’s a good combination!” Millner said of Carter, as they laid out their hopes for the program. Carter, a New Hampshire native, thinks she might launch a pilot of a smaller-scale dog-veteran matching program down the road that could grow. Millner, a native of Little Rock, AR, said he’s been accepted into graduate school in coaching education in Ohio, where he will move after graduation with his pediatrician wife and four-month old son, who was born “right before last semester’s finals.” He said he was proud of his role helping to bring a full-time veterans-advocacy staffer in student life to the college, and establishing sound leadership in campus veterans group to pass the baton to.

The end-game is … learning: Aaron Gasson, a senior media studies major from Bridgewater, MA, presented a website outlining the rapidly expanding world of YouTube “stars” playing and posting videos online. He created the work for the Media Studies, Journalism & Digital Arts annual Senior Projects Exhibit that happened the Wednesday preceding the Symposium. The MJD event predated the larger Symposium for many years-- almost a prototype -- and has continued independently, though a handful of students present again for the larger affair. “Basically, there’s people playing video games for a living and achieving celebrity status akin to TV and movie stars, just from playing games and posting them online,” he explained. Gasson’s website looks at some of the most popular of these, with links and explanatory analysis. “My adviser Traci Griffith gave me a really solid piece of advice,” he said. “She told me, ‘pick something you love and really care about because you’re going to work it to death.’” Since he loves video games and YouTube, this project seemed perfect, said Gasson, who had an internship working on interactive video with the John F. Kenney Library in Boston, and hopes perhaps to return for a job there or in the same general field somewhere else.

Practical polynomials: Who knew that certain polynomials in math have applications in the workplace? Maya Lopez, a senior math major from Lebanon, NH, and Logan Tracy, a junior math and education major from Milton, VT, know it now because of their poster-research on the topic. “In the managerial world, if you have multiple employees you want to hire who have been trained for different types of jobs and want to figure out how to hire for jobs they’ve applied for within a budget, this “matching graph” approach based on polynomials can be a useful tool,” Lopez said.


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