This past Friday, 12 September, William and Mary science-focused undergraduates presented projects they had developed and worked on over the summer. On display at the University Center, this was the 10th, and largest yet, display of student research and mentored work that has been shown in the annual symposium. The majority of science disciplines at the college were represented, including chemistry, biology, psychiatry, physics, computer science, geology, math, kinesiology and applied science.
“There are two reasons people are involved in science,” said Dr. Christopher (Chuck) Bailey, Assistant Professor of Geology at the College. “One is to solve problems. The other is to communicate what you find out to a large audience and share that information. What this [symposium] does is hopefully the first step for these students [to share their results].”
Chemistry-minded student Kristen Hehe, a junior at the College this year, worked this past summer under Associate Professor Dr. Gary Rice on a project assigned to her to study. Though not something she developed on her own, she believes that participating in such research is something that has been very beneficial to her.
“[It is] not just the science but the lab politics and what the daily life of a scientist is like,” said Kristen. “Things don’t always go the way you expect….[there is] a lot of waiting – instruments breaking, waiting on mail, etc. [But] it’s a helpful experience to learn the basics for future use.”
Other students displaying their projects at the show have only just begun their work. Many are seniors who began intensive work over the summer and will now continue their research throughout this year to culminate in the spring and serve as their senior project.
Frank Wells, a senior working with Dr. William E. Cooke in the physics department, has taken a project pursued in the past with little success and is in the process of turning it into his honors thesis. Titled â€˜Laser Induced Fluorescence to Image Gene Expression,’ Wells is attempting to find a non-evasive way of examining genes through tissue samples, rather than having to cut a patient’s skin.
“I’m currently working on building the detector to see if this is possible and practical, and hopefully I’ll have a better idea by next spring,” said Wells. “I’ve just taken a basic idea and tried to evolve it to work.”
Lori A. Newman is another senior now currently engaged in her honors thesis for this year. Working in the psychiatry department under Dr. Joshua Burk, Newman has taken one of the possible projects the department developed and elaborated on it to create her own field of research. She is currently studying an area of the brain thought to have an impact on memory and attention deficits, and most commonly known to be affected in Korsakoff’s disease and late stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
“I have more tests and experiments I’ve thought of to run now that I’ve started the project,” Newman said. “We’re trying to figure out just how this part of the brain really works and then how it’s affected.”
“I think it’s amazing what these students have got here,” said Karen Hines, graduate student and intern in the Dean of Undergraduate Studies. “As young as they are, they are already getting a jump start on their careers to be pursued in the future. It’s truly amazing.”
The Verizon Science Symposium is an annual event each fall and open to all William and Mary undergraduates who participated in research each summer prior, regardless of whether it was at the College or at other institutions. With over 100 participants this year, it is advisors’ hope that the symposium will continue to grow as student research increases each year.