From Petri Dish to Poster: Fords Present at the 15th Annual Undergraduate Science Research Symposium

With 96 students presenting research conducted across the globe, the Undergraduate Science Research Symposium showcased the range and depth of research Fords undertake in the natural sciences.

On Saturday, Sept. 28, nearly 100 presenters flocked to the Marian E. Koshland Integrated Natural Sciences Center to share their summer research in biology, psychology, physics, mathematics, chemistry, and computer science to a rapt audience. 

This year’s edition of the Undergraduate Science Research Symposium—the 15th— featured 96 students from Haverford, Bryn Mawr College, Swarthmore College, and Drew University. Those students presented 86 posters displaying research conducted worldwide, including at Lund University in Sweden, the University of Toronto, the University of Cambridge, the University of California-Berkeley, the University of Pennsylvania Medicine, and New York University.

Presenters from Haverford included Carter Patterson ’20, a physics and mathematics double major, and Poppy Northing ’22, a prospective double major in biology and environmental studies.

Having completed an internship sponsored by the KINSC as a research assistant in the Bowles agroecology lab at the University of California-Berkeley, Northing was excited to share her summer research with the Haverford community.

 “Presenting a poster at the symposium was extremely helpful as a growing scientist,” she said. “Going through the process of designing, printing, and presenting a poster was crucial for me to understand how these processes work at a general level. Additionally, the poster presentation itself was helpful because it pushed me to make my research accessible to everyone, as agriculture is a topic that is almost never brought up in my experience at Haverford. Being able to explain the basic theory and farming practices that were foundational to my research was key in the presentation, and this really helped me understand how conveying background information is really important.”

Patterson presented their physics research on how forces propagate through granular materials, like a pile of marbles or sand.

“We are investigating how the topological structure of the aggregate can tell us about its physical properties, such as the amount of force needed to fracture it,” they said. “It’s always fun to present a poster! It makes you think deeply about your research, since you have to be able to explain it to people who aren’t familiar with the specific topic. I find that having to distill it down into a short, roughly five minute talk forces me to understand my own research more deeply.” (Cont. after the gallery.)

In addition to poster presentations, there were four keynote speeches presented by Naomi Bronkema SC ’20, Charlie Marx ’20, Elizabeth Teng ’19, and Lucy Zhao ’21. Teng, a physics and astronomy double major, gave a talk on “Predicting Protoplanetary Spectra with Machine Learning.”

“I study protoplanetary disks, which are the birthplaces of planetary systems, like the solar system, she said. “It was really great to get to share what I’ve been working on with my peers at Haverford. This setting in particular gave me a really useful opportunity to practice talking about my research at a level that’s accessible to people outside of the astronomy community.”

For all of the students presenting research, either through a poster or a speech, the annual symposium is a unique chance to share their hard work with interested guests from around the Philadelphia area, and continues to grow in size and scope every year as more and more Fords are given the opportunity to connect with each other over their passions for scientific research. 

Photos by Claire Blood-Cheney ’20.