Research Rendezvous

Students present at multi-disciplinary conference

by Lindsie Trego

After months of passing out doses of benadryl, watching clams dig, collecting data, collaborating with classmates, writing and editing papers, and creating presentations, senior biology major Megan Smith’s hard work will finally come to a climax. She, along with 223 other undergraduates from the Spokane area, will present her research at the Spokane Intercollegiate Research Conference on April 27.

Smith has been working on two projects for the conference. The first, a study on the effect of light on the digging behavior of clams, which she took on solo. The other, on which she worked with two other students, examines whether stinging nettle works as an antihistamine when taken orally.

“We had a pretty complicated project,” Smith said. “When we actually collected the data, we would have around 20 study participants coming in at one time.”

After completing the studies and assessing the data, student participants put together abstracts for their projects and submitted them to SIRC.

At that point, “the applications come pouring in,” said Deanna Ojennus, chair of the SIRC organizing committee and professor of chemistry at Whitworth. Applications come from not only Whitworth students, but also from students at Gonzaga University, Eastern Washington University, the Institute of Science and Technology at North Central High School and Spokane Community College.

When submitting an abstract, students must have sponsorship from a faculty member at their school, Ojennus said. The sponsoring faculty members are asked to give their seals of approval that projects are up to par for a professional-level conference.

“The philosophy of SIRC is to allow as many students to present as possible,” Ojennus said. “We rely heavily on the judgment of the faculty sponsors.”

By using the faculty sponsor system, the committee overcomes some of the difficulty that comes from hosting a multi-disciplinary conference, Ojennus said. Because not every academic discipline is represented on the committee, it would be difficult for committee members to judge the qualifications of each project that is submitted.

Disciplines represented at the conference will range from biology to history, from literature to economics.

“The most important thing is to allow the students to present at a professional-level conference,” Ojennus said. “That’s something that’s not always available to undergrads in particular.”

The ability to experience the work that goes into preparing for an academic conference is one of the best parts of SIRC, said junior English major Ana Quiring, who participated in the conference last year and will again this year.

“It was a good experience [last year],” she said. “I did a paper on Virginia Woolf, and I learned a lot about preparing for an academic conference.”

Quiring will present a paper she wrote on modern British writer Graham Greene, as a part of a special session called “Imagining England in Modern British Fiction.” Two other English students, sophomores Shannon Ritchie and Maggie Montague, will also present during this session.

Aside from student presenters, the conference will feature Beck Taylor as the keynote speaker at 9 a.m. in Robinson Teaching Theater. Student presentations will commence at 10:15 a.m. and will be held throughout campus.

The event is free and open to the public, and non-participating students are encouraged to attend, Ojennus said.

“It’s a cool opportunity between disciplines and between schools to share what we’re learning,” Quiring said.

A finalized program — including locations, times and abstracts for the student presentations — will be available on the SIRC website the morning of the event.

Contact Lindsie Trego at lwagner14@my.whitworth.edu

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