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Student researchers showcase projects at fall symposium

  • Two students stand by a poster in a library
    Research symposium:  Alena Crespo '21 (right) shares her research with a guest at the Fall Undergraduate Research Symposium.  Photo by Andy Harris
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William & Mary students create new knowledge every day. On Oct. 25, more than 140 W&M student researchers — representing over 30 majors — packed Swem Library to put their new knowledge on display.

The occasion was the Fall Undergraduate Research Symposium, the Charles Center’s annual celebration of mentored student research.

“Undergraduate research is what we do best at W&M, so it's thrilling for me to see over 140 examples of how hard our students work on their research,” Faculty Director of Undergraduate Research Dan Cristol said. “I also love the huge diversity of topics. Talking to student researchers at one of these events is the best way to see the value of undergraduate research - they are passionate about their subjects, they got a lot of outside-of-the-classroom attention from their faculty mentors, and they can explain their processes so well."A student shares with attendees of the symposium. (Photo by Andy Harris)

Research topics ranged from Facebook algorithms to art therapy, and from economic models of e-sports to the environmental impacts of the fashion industry.

Student presenters shared their findings with a full house, as guests moved from poster to poster in the Read & Relax Room and took in works of fine art in Botetourt Gallery and Theatre.

Carolina Lopez-Silva ‘20, who conducted an Honors Fellowship in the Allison Lab, said she loved talking to Symposium guests about the summer she spent studying mutant thyroid hormone receptors.

“It's always fun to discuss your work with different audiences because you get such a wide variety of responses,” Lopez-Silva said. “As I was walking around the symposium, looking at other people's work, there were so many posters that caught my eye. They were really interesting and well-developed research projects in science, political science, marketing and the humanities.”

Cristol told guests that research takes many forms, and not all research projects culminate in a published paper.

First-year Monroe Scholar Adithi Ramakrishnan spent part of the summer in Mumbai, India, where she studied how colonial-era structures function in the present day. She visited structures and met with experts, capturing video footage everywhere she went. When she returned stateside she produced a 14-minute documentary that she shared on the big screen in Botetourt Theatre.

“My research project allowed me to engage in critical thought and learn something new about a city that was very dear to my heart,” said Ramakrishnan, whose family traces their roots to Mumbai. “It also taught me how to synthesize large volumes of information in a format that was both easily digestible and interesting. Presenting my research was extremely fulfilling for me because it felt that I was coming full circle, and bringing the knowledge I had gained halfway across the globe back to the very space in which I first came up with the idea of pursuing my project.” 

A student's sculpture on display at the fall symposium. (Photo by Andy Harris)She added that she recommends other student researchers and artists share their work at the Symposium next fall.

“It was very exciting for me to talk about the research I did and make a connection with the audience members based on a topic that I am passionate about,” Ramakrishnan said. “For me, the event was a great opportunity to look back on my research, share it with others, and come together in a mutual community of learning and thoughtful conversation.”

The next Charles Center research symposium will take place on April 3 in the Integrated Science Center. The Spring Undergraduate Research Symposium will be a part of a larger Research Week that will feature several research-themed events across campus.