Students give presentation of research for SOAR


Edward Frankonis, Crier Staff

On April 12 at 6:30 p.m., several high-achieving Anselmians gave a public presentation of their respective research projects as a part of the college’s SOAR program in Perini lecture hall, the Goulet science building. Led by the boundless enthusiasm of philosophy faculty member Dr. Joshua Tepley, the students gave five PowerPoint presentations highlighting the most important aspects of their research. Each of the students, with one exception, are members of the class of 2019, and broadly represented a variety of different majors and departments.

After snacking on a complimentary assortment of cheeses, fruits, and cookies, the presentations kicked off with the exhibition of the work of senior English & Secondary Education double major Kelsey Hammond. Her research, funded by the Undergraduate Research Fellowship of Saint Anselm College, examined the literary legacy of early 19th century Anglo-Irish author Maria Edgeworth, a writer whom Hammond had grown to admire thanks to a class taught by Father Jerome. Hammond’s inspection took her all the way to Ireland, where she both participated in a women’s symposium at the Royal Irish Academy and studied the handwritten letters of Ms. Edgeworth in the “Long Room” of Ireland’s National Library.

Hammond explained that ever since the age of nine (when Ms. Edgeworth had written her mother that “School seems agreeable to me”), Ms. Edgeworth had an innate ability to find her writing “voice”, with her first major publication occuring in 1800. Ms. Edgeworth, according to Hammond, struggled greatly with both her duties as a part of the aristocratic class and her identity as an Anglo-Irish living during the Acts of Union (which united Ireland with the rest of Britain), something that is greatly reflected in Ms. Edgeworth’s personal writings.

The next presenter was Julia Nosel, a senior Criminal Justice and International Relations double major who has spent the last summer and fall semester (courtesy of the Honors Summer Research Fellowship) researching the similarities between violent gangs (like MS-13) and terrorist groups (like Al-Qaeda). Inspired by a course she took on political violence, Nosel examined the major components of strategies utilized by violent socio-political groups to see if she could fill the gap in scholarly research covering similarities between gangs and terrorist organizations.

Out of five major strategies used by violent groups, both gangs and terror groups heavily utilized two of them, the two being intimidation (or frightening a population into submission) and outbidding (or fighting with other groups/institutions to prove dominance and show strength). The other three strategies were either used with some terror groups/gangs, but not with others (for example, the strategy of Provocation [provoking a strong attack on the group to elicit sympathy from a population] is frequently used by terror groups but almost never used by gangs. Nosel explained that this was due to the fact that terror groups liked to portray themselves as victims, whereas gangs by and large did not), leading Nosel to conclude that further research was necessary to produce a more solid conclusion on the question.

The third presenter, senior Nursing major Valerie Pauter, then took the floor to discuss her research on palliative care for pancreatic cancer patients at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center. Palliative care, or care focusing on managing symptoms (such as pain levels), helps those suffering from severe cases of cancer (like pancreatic cancer, which has the third highest fatality rate) by managing stress levels, which can decrease depression rates and increase chances of survival. Pauter combed through demographics and data provided by the NCCC in order to study the effectiveness of palliative care at the center and how it could better help patients with pancreatic cancer that had high distress levels.

Pauter explained both during the presentation and the energetic question & answer session that given the lack of early symptoms exhibited from pancreatic cancer, it is often quite difficult to detect the cancer unless a battery of evasive tests are done to a patient. This results in the cancer being detected when it has entered its later stages, which increases the chances a patient will experience high levels of mental distress. In order to best contrast the results of the study at the NCCC with studies done on a national level, Pauter explained that more research would be necessary.

The penultimate speaker, senior Biochemistry major Nathaniel Shannon, gave a very detailed talk on his research on the contraction of rDNA in schizosaccharomyces pombe, a fission yeast cell named after the Swahili word for “beer”.  The ease of growing, storing, and manipulating the 3-chromosome pombe is why Shannon selected that particular life form for his research. Shannon’s major focus was on the two proteins that are essential in the replication process, which he studied via the usage of a Pulsed Field Gel Electrophoresis (pr PFGE), which uses electrical currents to separate rDNA segments.

While presenting, Shannon explained that although his part of the research was wrapping up, the research itself hasn’t slowed down at all; the yeast cells in question were being exposed to heat shocks while the presentation was ongoing. Given that the expanding of rDNA occurs in cancer cells, if the exact reasons behind rDNA’s “breaking up” was uncovered, Shannon explained it could further our understanding of cancer.

Sophomore Katherine Warth was the last to take the podium as she presented her research on postpartum (or post-child birth) depression and its impact on breastfeeding. Given that one out of every seven mothers are diagnosed with postpartum depression, Warth decided to focus on the impact this depression may have on the ability for mothers to breastfeed adequately.

Warth explained that breastfeeding improved with mothers who received treatment for their postpartum depression (such as talk therapy), albeit with an anomalous decrease in breastfeeding between 3 weeks and 3 months of getting treatment. Warth’s research, which was presented at the March International Breastfeeding & Feminism Conference, is currently on public display in Gadbois on the 3rd floor.

Each year, the SOAR program allows for students like these to showcase their research and demonstrate their work as some of Saint Anselm’s finest. After the presentation, it became abundantly clear that the hard work these students had put into their projects was already paying off dividends.