April 24 Poster Sessions a Huge Success

Ever wonder what a prairie dog does when it hears a predator approaching? How about how technology is broadening the class gap in India? Or how lasers might help us distinguish between malignant and benign cancer?

All of these topics and many more were considered at four symposia — all held Thursday, April 24 — highlighting the important and varied research conducted by students and faculty at Fairfield this year. Hundreds of students presented their illuminating work across the disciplines at the Research and Creative Accomplishments Symposium, the 14th annual Sigma Xi Poster Session, the Service Learning Celebration, and the Senior Nurses Capstone Presentation.

Dr. David Sapp, associate vice president for academic affairs, was among the many visitors talking with students about their work during the first event, the Research and Creative Accomplishments Symposium.

“This is an extraordinary event in which we celebrate our students' dedication to academic excellence,” he said. “Under the close supervision of their faculty mentors, nearly 200 students from almost every major on campus gathered together this year to share their research with the University community. Students shared projects on topics ranging from hairstyles in ancient Greek and Roman sculpture, econometrics and professional sports, challenges facing nurses in rural Cuba, and the nervous behaviors of endangered Amur leopards. In addition, three students performed music they composed for an audience of their peers, faculty, staff, parents, and friends of the University who attended this day of celebration.” 

Jillian Ottombrino ’15 and Oladotun Oyawusi ’15, both biology majors, studied black-tailed prairie dogs at Bridgeport’s Beardsley Zoo, the site of several research projects overseen by Dr. Ashley Byun, assistant professor of biology. The students observed and recorded the animals’ responses when they heard the sounds of human visitors and their natural predators, the black-footed ferret and the red-tailed hawk. They analyzed the prairie dogs’ vocalizations, finding variety to their barks based on the type of danger they perceived. “We also realized the calls were coming from a specific place,” said Oyawusi.

The student research will help the zoo staff better understand where the prairie dog families live within their exhibit and where the colony’s security patrol stands guard. Their work has been nominated for presentation at a conference, Ottombrino said.

Dr. Gita Rajan’s English 12 students attended a lecture with the Rev. Vincent Braganza, S.J., entitled “Ethics and Science: the Role of Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Indian Society,” then explored the way science and technology have carved a deeper divide between the haves and the have-nots in this JUHAN course, said Dr. Rajan, professor of English. “It did teach me a lot about civil rights and women’s rights and how technology can benefit and be damaging to the poor,” said Autumn Young ’17, a marketing major.

At the Sigma Xi event, a group of chemistry majors discussed their work developing and synthesizing copper and zinc compounds to better understand how they speed up reactions in the human body and make it more efficient. Christine Villa ’14 has been working on the project for two years, under the supervision of Dr. John Miecznikowski, associate professor of chemistry.

“I’ve had two papers published so far,” said Villa, who hopes to pursue a medical career.

Around the corner, Maria Galluzzo ’15, a biology major, explained how algal blooms, which release potentially harmful toxins, affect Lake Lillinonah in northwestern Connecticut. She worked closely with Dr. Jennifer Klug, who was been doing research at the lake for years. “I did do stuff like this in high school and I wanted a college where I could do this kind of thing, so I looked for one,” she said of Fairfield strong legacy of undergraduate research opportunities.

Dr. Robbin Crabtree, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said she’s always enjoys attending these end-of-the year events. “Students from every discipline are showcasing their work, whether it was completed within a specific course, part of research supervised by a faculty member, or arising from some community engagement,” she said. “The array of projects is always impressive, and talking with the students about their work reveals immense passion for their subject areas.”

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Last modified: Thu, 01 May 2014 09:02:09 EDT