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Symposium Touts Undergrad Research

Margaret Veroneau '12 describes research her and Kelly Leonard '12 undertook on binge eating and weight loss among college students.

By Kathleen Sullivan | Chronicle Staff

Published: Feb. 16, 2012

Fifty-four Boston College undergraduates presented their scholarly research — on topics that included adoption in South Korea, Chinese migration in Far East Russia, French media coverage of the burqa controversy, and the progress of reconciliation in Rwanda — to the University community last week at the sixth annual Undergraduate Research Symposium.
Sponsored by the University Fellowships Committee, the symposium, which took place on Feb. 3 in Fulton Hall, showcased scholarship supported by BC’s Advanced Study Grants program, as well as McNair Scholarship projects, research published in undergraduate journals, and other independent work. Opening the symposium, organizer Vice Provost for Undergraduate Academic Affairs Donald Hafner told the audience he hoped the event would be “fun and yet at the same time engage important issues and look to the deeper questions of human existence.”
Delivering the keynote address, Assistant Professor of History Jeremy Clarke, SJ, offered his views on the purpose of research. Researchers, he said, “want to tell people’s stories, be it a four-year-old girl in the Salem Witch trial, or people who binge eat, or the people buried in an abbey in Ireland. Because it matters. If my life matters and your life matters, well, so do these people we study.”
He encouraged the student researchers to continue to be “prepared, flexible and hard-working, because that is how we end up recovering these important stories and making the fantastic research that we celebrate today.”
Five Connell School of Nursing students gave poster presentations in Fulton Common, addressing topics such as binge-eating, community health clinicals in Haiti, and the role of caregivers in unintended pregnancy situations. The other student scholars presented their projects in one of 13 panels organized by themes. Undergraduates were quick to credit faculty and others in the BC community who had assisted their research.
Presidential Scholar Maggie Scollan ’14 discussed her participation in an archaeological dig of a 12th-century monastery in Trim, Ireland. A biology major with a minor in history, Scollan said the Advanced Study Grant-funded project fed her interest in osteoarchaeology, the analysis of human skeletal remains. She explained how analysis of bones at the site enabled archaeologists to determine the likely cause of death (tuberculosis) of one person and the occupation (swordsman or archer, due to ridges on the scapula) of another.  
Another Advanced Study Grant winner, Carroll School of Management sophomore Max Cho, presented a comparison of the housing bubbles in the US, Japan and China, which represent the three largest economies in the world and three different phases of the bubble — past, present and future. He looked at the different root causes of the bubbles and at government policies that helped cause the situation and others that may offer solutions.
Sophomore Narintohn Luangrath traveled to France to examine newspaper and magazine reportage on the burqa ban and on French and North African Muslims. An International Studies and philosophy double major, Luangrath said the project reflected her interest in the difficulties states often face in integrating ethnic and/or religious minority populations. She found that while most coverage of the burqa ban “avoided words signaling support or condemnation of the ban, articles arguably contained ‘latent’ content, reflecting common French attitudes regarding religious expression in the public sphere and equality of the sexes.”

Anna Broido ‘12, a math major with a chemistry minor, presented information on an emerging field of applied math that can help medical researchers better understand the details of a disease and how an epidemic spreads. She used several methods to analyze two infection models — VRE, a common hospital infection, and HIV. She conducted her research last summer at North Carolina State University’s Research Experience for Undergraduates Program in Industrial and Applied Mathematics.
The following faculty members and administrators served as panel chairs: Kenji Hayao, Paul Christensen, Jennifer Erickson, Elizabeth Sparks, William Keane, Jason Cavallari, Joseph Burns, Akua Sarr and Ines Maturana Sendoya.

Descriptions of research projects from this year and 2011 are available here.  Watch a video about the symposium at the Chronicle YouTube channel.