Students to Scholars Symposium will let students pitch topics for possible research

The cinematic Forrest Gump famously compared life to a box of chocolates — delivering unguessable and, he hoped, pleasurable surprises. Think of Friday’s Students to Scholars Symposium as an intellectual Whitman Sampler, full of tasty ideas to enrich your mind without waist-widening calories.

This ninth iteration of the symposium, like many other campus activities, has gone virtual because of the coronavirus pandemic. It will run 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Following tradition, the symposium will explore topics political (the Patriot Act, immigration policy), psychological (yoga’s effect on well-being) and diversional (the PlayStation 4). Also following tradition, the symposium will feature a cross-disciplinary collection of students who will present ideas to an equally cross-disciplinary collection of faculty. 

“All of you are on a path to serve each other and our communities through the development of skill sets and communications, collaboration and innovation.” Dr. Sandra Affenito, Norwich University provost

Dr. Amy Woodbury Tease, an associate professor of English, again directs the symposium. She joins associate professor of environmental science Dr. Laurie Grigg, associate professor of English Dr. Kyle Pivetti, associate professor of mathematics Dr. Addie Armstrong and assistant professor of Spanish Dr. Kaitlin E. Thomas as moderators.  

Faculty from the College of Professional Schools, College of Liberal Arts and the College of Science and Mathematics will watch from the virtual audience, evaluating student pitches for research potential. On average, Woodbury Tease said, at least half of the symposium participants later write successful proposals for summer research fellowships or pursue research as faculty mentors’ apprentices. 

In a welcome video, Provost Sandra Affenito hailed students for stepping toward research.

“All of you are on a path to serve each other and our communities through the development of skill sets and communications, collaboration and innovation,” she said. “Locate those peers, those faculty members, and have conversations about … novel ways and perspectives on your subject area of interest. This feedback will be invaluable as you open up new areas of inquiry and exploration.”

Taking the stage

Students from past symposia said the experience helped them overcome jitters, stay flexible and learn. Kpatcha Massina, an international student from Togo, western Africa, who’s a senior and a member of the Corps of Cadets, presented research on the World Bank, economic infusions and refugees. As Affenito forecast in her welcome, one research question would spark another; his summer research was also on western African refugees, women and children in Burkina Faso.

Massina said he’s following the thread further.

“COVID-19 has further accentuated malnutrition in West Africa,” he wrote in an email.

sympsoium affenito min
Norwich Provost Sandra Affenito praised students’ intellectual initiative in a video welcome for the virtual 2020 Students to Scholars Symposium. (Screenshot from video by Ronny DiMasi.)

Renata De Paiva, a sophomore computer science major and a civilian, used last year’s symposium to float a question on whether technology helped or hurt the environment. She said the group was nonjudgmental and welcoming as she delivered her idea, which eventually led to research with civil and environmental engineering professor Tara Kulkarni on how technology aids in fighting Amazon wildfires.

Lauren Graham, a senior environmental science major and a civilian student in 2018 pitched the idea of changing round culverts in Vermont to flat-bottom culverts to limit environmental damage. She said presenting made her comfortable enough to present again and land an undergraduate research grant. Last summer, she worked with Grigg, analyzing the tie between water fleas’ egg casing size and pigmentation and fish predation.

“This experience taught me to have critical thinking skills, how to turn my ideas and questions into actual research, and to be more confident in myself,” Graham wrote in an email. “I plan to attend (this year’s) symposium and support fellow friends and peers.”

Click here to register to attend the symposium.

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Here’s the complete symposium schedule:

9-9:50 a.m. Moderator, Dr. Amy Woodbury TeaseNatalie Sophia Cerna ’21 (Criminal justice and Spanish), “Contradictions among Current Immigration Policy, and Examining Avenues for Reform.”

  • Jacob Folsom ’21 (Computer science), “A Deep Dive into the PlayStation 4.”
  • Beatrice Sullivan ’22 (Criminal justice), “The Patriot Act: How It Prevents Crime, and the Misconceptions Behind It.”

10-10:50 a.m. Moderator, Dr. Laurie Grigg

  • Alvin Law ’22 (Nursing), “Efficacy of Yoga on Quality of Life in Cancer Patients.”
  • Rebecca Garcia ’21 (Psychology/Spanish), “Culture Shock and its Effect on Mental Well-being.”
  • Charles Vasas ’23 (Architecture/computer science), “Roadblocks to a Sustainable Future: How Government and Companies Block the Way.”

11-11:50 a.m. Moderator, Dr. Kyle Pivetti

  • Vincent Alessi ’21 (Computer science/mathematics and psychology), “Using Attention as a Failsafe In Brain-Computer Interfaces.”
  • Charles William Gunnels ’24 (Studies in war and peace), “Introduction of African American Cadets to Norwich University.”
  • Johannes Shephard ’21 (International Studies/French), “Going To War: Comparing American Language to French in narrating War and the Experience of War.”

Noon-12:50 p.m. Moderator, Dr. Amy Woodbury Tease

  • Gwendalynn Clark ’21 (Computer science), “Cryptology and the Dangers of Images on Social Media.”
  • Jonathan Mahan ’21 (History/Philosophy & Sociology), “Pet Paradox: Vegan Morality and Animal Companionship.”
  • Robert Frank Popeleski ’21 (Computer science), “Reliable Form Integrity with Javascript.”

1-1:50 p.m. Moderator, Dr. Kaitlin E. Thomas

  • Lydia Brown ’23 (Criminal justice/psychology), “The Effect of Pollution on Vermont’s Waterways: Manure Runoff.”
  • Renata De Paiva ’23 (Computer Science), “Ethics in the Technology: Artificial Intelligence, Robots, Internet of Things.”
  • Alex Rosas ’23 (Biology/English), “The Effects of Audio Outside of Human Hearing Range on Mental Health in College Students.”

2-2:50 p.m. Moderator, Dr. Amy Woodbury Tease

  • Zane Fockler ’23 (Environmental science), “Establishing a Plan for a Pollinator Garden on the Norwich University Campus.”
  • Jared Macias ’21 (Computer science), “Internet of Things Forensic Data Loss Mitigation.”
  • Anamika Usman ’24 (Biochemistry), “Are Snails the Ultimate Cure: A Study on the Antibacterial Properties of Mucin Proteins.”

3-3:50 p.m. Moderator, Dr. Addie Armstrong

  • Robyn Dudley ’22 (Political science and international studies/Spanish), “Government Types and Aid Implementation Effectiveness.”
  • Faith Poor ’22 (Biology), “Analysis of Beta-lactam Antibiotics in Local Waterways and Their Cytotoxic Effects.”
  • Korben Whitt-Leitner ’24 (History/economics), “Upon a Hill: How Conservatism Drove American Foreign Policy from Expansionism to the Invasion of Iraq.”

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