Thursday, April 26, 2012

Artists and scholars show their work in 2012 Symposium

From the minutiae of bacteria to the science of global climate change, there was no topic too large or too small for students selected to present at Randolph College’s 2012 Symposium of Artists and Scholars.

The event, held April 20, showcased the best research and creative works by Randolph College students in the past year. Nineteen students presented research representing a broad range of disciplines and topics.

The Symposium opened with keynote speaker Bob Deans, journalist and environmental author, describing the necessity of having a powerful question to guide research.

“If we ask the right question, we not only know where we’re going, but how to know when we get there,” he said. “The human mind is the most effective machine ever invented for the purpose of answering questions.”

Deans told the students the world needs their generation to find the answers to questions such as how to bring peace and spread democracy. “The questions that you will ask will be more profound than any we have ever faced,” he said.

Students then took the stage for their own presentations.

Zahra Ada Adahman ’14 talked about her analysis of ultrasonic mouse vocalizations. Her research, conducted with Katrin Schenk, a physics professor, seeks to understand and classify the high-frequency calls that mouse pups make when separated from their mothers. Alex Kwakye ’15 and Christopher Hollingsworth ’15 presented a poster explaining how their research with Schenk this summer will explore how mother mice respond to those calls.

Kira Chhatwal ’12 presented her research titled “Will You Marry Me for Money?” She dissected data on family relationships and demonstrated that women who are married tend to earn more money than those who are not, especially when they are in a lower income group. Later, Ravi Shukla ’12 included a discussion of marriage in his talk about the concepts of neutrality or perfectionism in a free society. He discussed the philosophical arguments for and against government promoting particular virtues, such as marriage.

Tra My Dinh Doan ’14 discussed a study she conducted last summer with Caroline Mann, who was a visiting psychology professor. The study sought to devise a way to test whether someone holds a stigma against mental illness without asking the person to admit it.

French artist Yves Klein was the focus of research by Catherine DeSilvey ’13. While the artist is best known for his paintings that used nude women as living paintbrushes, she argued that his planetary reliefs and air architecture—which used fire and air as walls for buildings—should be counted among his artistic canon.

Adam Eller ’13 explained how edible landscaping can improve the availability and sustainability of local food supply. Last summer, he tested soil samples around the Randolph College campus and laid the groundwork for increasing edible landscaping in Lynchburg. Two other students, Louise Searle ’12 and Lily Noguchi ’13, focused on sustainability by presenting a video they made about climate change. The video dissects and debunks an unscientific argument against climate change science.

A few students showcased their creative works to the audience. Sarah Fogle ’12 displayed portions of a graphic novel she is creating as an adaptation of a short story she wrote about LGBTQ college students. Karl Speer ’12 presented "Not Rain Enough in Heaven", a short story loosely based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, told from the point of Claudius. Danielle Robinson ’12 read a short story from her collection of short stories linked together by family relationships and characters who ride buses. Derrick Woods-Morrow ’12 exhibited photography that documented the cultural shock and immersion during his 2011 study abroad trip to Italy.

Two communication studies students focused on the way certain minority groups are presented in film. Julianna Joyce ’13 discussed her award-winning research that demonstrates ambivalence in the portrayal of racial minorities in Disney productions. Xavier Castanedas ’12 explained the way films about the skinhead subculture ignore the diversity in the group, portraying it as an entirely racist movement.

Meredith Humphreys ’12 presented the ongoing research she has conducted with Woyni Teklay ’13 and Qi Zhang ’13 about using hands-on experiments to increase the effectiveness of science classes. Randolph professors Peggy Schimmoeller, Peter Sheldon, and Tatiana Gilstrap lead the project, which includes a summer seminar for local teachers and a summer science camp for children.

Emily Smith ’12 and Angelina Haines ’12 both discussed their research regarding birds. Smith recently catalogued the biology department’s collection of bird specimens and studied their historical connections to famous natural history collectors. Haines has been studying the populations of crows in urban and suburban areas. Her research sheds light on the way species of crows adapt to environmental changes created by humans.

Debra Coats ’12 studied the prevalence of the Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bacteria among college students. Prior studies have shown that the bacterium is more common among groups that live in close quarters, such as a college residence hall. Her research reinforced the importance of hygiene to prevent the spread of germs on a small campus.