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The Blue & Gray Press | February 22, 2018

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Students Dazzle at Annual Research and Creativity Day

More than 130 students participated in the University of Mary Washington’s Sixth Annual Undergraduate Research and Creativity Symposium. Held in the Woodard Campus Center on Tuesday, April 17, students who participated in an independent or thesis style research project had the opportunity to present their findings at the symposium.

Presentations began at 9 a.m. and lasted for most of the day. Additionally, the music and art departments held a mid-day exhibit, which included displays of student work and performances by student musicians.

Senior biology major Cole Eskridge presented his senior research project in poster form. His study, titled, “Phylogenetic Analysis and Diversity of Free-Living Terrestrial Nematodes In Virginia,” was conducted over several months, beginning last summer during UMW’s Summer Science Institute.

Eskridge worked closely with Theresa Grana, an assistant professor of biology, to collect and process data, which ultimately created an evolutionary tree of nematodes. Outside researchers are now looking at Eskridge’s data and are interested in collaborating with him to learn more about potential new species.

Eskridge’s presented his poster during the mid-day slot.

“It was science fair style, essentially,” Eskridge said. “I gave a brief summary and people could ask questions.”

Students from almost all departments presented their research results either orally or in poster format. Each student was given time to present their findings, and the audience was then able to ask questions. Many students attended the presentations with encouragement from professors to learn more about a topic of interest or to support a friend.

Topics ranged from psychology experiments on “Empathy in College Students” to a project in which a student built a working laser harp.

“This year has been good practice to see if this is an actual field I’d want to work in for the next 40 to 50 years,” said Eskridge.

He will begin studying at the University of Arizona next year, pursuing a PhD in entomology.

Inspired by her time abroad, anthropology and Spanish double major Jillian Trent presented her thesis, “The Curious Case of Ecuador; The Influence of Currency on Nationalism.” Her audience was treated to stories and photos from her time in Ecuador as well a slideshow, which used her own personal experiences to prove her conclusion.

Senior Shirin Afsous presented two senior research projects at the symposium. Her honors English thesis, “The Language of Rape: Margaret Mitchell’s Defense of Spousal Rape in Gone With the Wind,” and an independent research project about Islam titled, “Women in Islam.” Both projects studied the intersections of gender negotiations and equality.

“I truly enjoyed and appreciated the opportunity to present at Research and Creativity day,” said Afsous. She said she appreciated the opportunity to research and share her thoughts on two projects that she was thoroughly interested in.

“This was my first time doing RCD, and it was a great way to show off what I’ve been working on this semester,” said senior Mallory Somerset. Somerset’s independent study in linguistics was focused on creating a website through UMWBlogs that would showcase “Sounds of Old English.”

“One of my favorite parts of this project has been creating the website itself… many thanks to Jim Groom for making that possible,” said Somerset. Her project is available for review at oldenglish.umwblogs.org.

Somerset said that opportunities such as the Research & Creativity Symposium are what make UMW such a great school.

“RCD is a perfect venue for projects like mine – I not only had a scholastic goal in mind, but I also created the means to express the research I’ve done,” said Somerset. “I can’t believe that after only one class I not only was inspired and encouraged to pursue a topic further, but to also add my own contribution.”