On Saturday, Sept. 25, the Koshland Integrated Natural Sciences Center (KINSC) hosted the annual Undergraduate Science Research Symposium, in which students presented their research from the past summer via poster presentations and selected student talks. Any Haverford student who conducted research, whether on or off campus, and at any institution, was welcome to attend as a presenter.
The day began at 10:30 a.m., when nine selected students presented their research in short talks in Sharpless Auditorium.
Christina McBride ‘23 was one such speaker. She presented her project, “I spy a protein with my little eye: Mining novel biosynthetic gene clusters using bioinformatics,” which she conducted with Associate Professor of Chemistry Lou Charkoudian and Assistant Professor of Biology Eric Miller.
“I discussed how we can use bioinformatics to identify enzymes that make important molecules,” said McBride. “Although computer science may seem like the antithesis to the study of life, the intersection between these two fields allows us to rapidly examine large volumes of genetic data.My project aims to map the evolutionary relationships between type II polyketide biosynthetic gene clusters–the genes that encode for enzymes that create molecules that often have unique medicinal properties.”
A chemistry major with a biochemistry concentration, McBride works with Charkoudian and Miller during both summers and the school year on bioprospecting, or finding natural products that can be used as medicines and other important chemicals.
McBride was excited to give a talk in person at the symposium. “All of my other opportunities to present research have been over Zoom because of the pandemic,” she said. “So, having the opportunity to present in front of my peers in person was really exciting.”
She noted that a particular challenge of presenting at an event, which encompassed so many fields, was making the presentation accessible to a wider audience, including those outside her own field.
“I spend a lot of time considering how the content I include impacts my presentation’s story,” she said. “It is definitely difficult to convey ‘the science’ while avoiding highly technical language, but I really enjoy using analogies and relatable language to engage people outside of my field.”
Annette Lee ’22, Wendy Wen ’23, Bianca Teves ’23, Johanna Fowler ’21, Dylan Rothbort ’24, Eva White ‘23, Ivan Ruiz ’23, and Megan Coolahan ‘22 also gave 10-minute presentations on their work.
Following the talks and a lunch break, attendees were invited to tour the research posters that were hung throughout the building. The student research on display represented research in astrophysics, biology, chemistry, environmental studies, computer science, mathematics, physics, and psychology. It spanned cognitive science and neuroscience, even including algorithmic fairness.
Marielle Latrick, associate director of the KINSC, explained that some adaptations were made from previous years to support a less crowded poster viewing experience and all around COVID-safer event.
“Instead of having two large poster presentation sessions in Zubrow Commons, we spread the poster displays throughout the KINSC buildings, and Strawbridge Observatory as well,” said Latrick. “The posters will remain on display until October 2 as well.”
In addition to the 84 posters on display, some posters were accompanied by a QR code that led to a short audio description of the research, allowing for students to give presentations without being there in person.
Afterward, attendees reconvened in Sharpless Auditorium for a question-and-answer session with seven students who had conducted research this past summer. Johanna Fowler ‘21, Joao Pedro de Carvalho ‘22, Ellie Kerns ‘22, Elizabeth Szanton ‘22, Nasanbayer Ulzii-Orshikh ‘22, Lydia Guertin ‘24, and Matthias Langer ‘24 answered questions about their experiences in chemistry, mathematics, environmental studies, psychology, computer science, physics and astronomy, and biology, respectively.
Hosted by Karen Masters, professor of physics and astronomy and director of the KINSC, the Q&A included student takes on issues such as connecting summer research to school year research, time commitments, connecting with professors for research opportunities, and how to integrate into new labs.
After a full day of events in the KINSC, all who attended left with a better understanding of research at Haverford and the scientific advancements happening on our campus.