Nearly 300 student presenters took part in the 16th annual University of Mary Washington Undergraduate Research and Creativity Symposium on Friday, the last day of classes.
Posters, oral presentations, creative writing – even an art exhibit and play – represented a year’s worth of work in science and math, education and business, history and foreign language, and everything in between. Students, faculty and staff, proud family members and friends gathered in the Hurley Convergence Center and other spaces throughout campus to share and discuss.
“It’s an opportunity for students to see our peers doing amazing work,” said senior Keegan Fredrick, a political science major. “It provides an avenue for students to share what we’ve been working on for all these months.”
When senior Katherine Connor asked who in the audience remembered reading an LGBTQ+ book in elementary school, no one spoke up. Her research, “Strangers Like Me: Evaluating and Selecting LGBTQ+ Children’s Literature,” aims to improve those results.
“It’s my hope that in the future everyone in this room would be able to raise their hand,” said Connor, who examined the notion that teachers’ inability to discuss diverse sexual identities could lead to negative effects for LGBTQ+ students. She recruited pre-service educators to read and evaluate children’s books, and created a measure to test its effect on their confidence.
UMW students Mariana Haugh, Olivia Casey, Ayana Jefferson and Rogelio Santiago studied diet and memory, presenting “Effects of High Sugar and High Fat Diets on BDNF in the Hippocampus and Prefrontal Cortex on Working Memory in Mice.” They explored how eating patterns alter brain activity, using two dozen lab mice, and found noticeable – if not significant – results.
This type of research targets the obesity crisis in the U.S., Haugh said, and has implications for busy college students who often struggle to eat healthy meals.
Other research included a comparison of essential oils and bacterial disinfectants, the use of Arabic in emergency medicine, the role of gender in politics, and so much more.
“It was exciting to see not only that student research is back in terms of numbers of projects, but also in terms of the high quality of those projects,” said College of Arts and Sciences Assistant Dean Betsy Lewis. “I loved getting to interact with them as they shared the fruits of their hard work over the past year, and also witnessing the strong support and sincere interest in their work from the faculty and fellow students from across the university.”
The Studio Art Senior Exhibition opening reception on the first floor of the University Center, on view through April 28. Learn more about UMW’s Research and Creativity Symposium.