Undergraduate scholars gather at MARCUS

| October 15, 2013

Sophia Stone, a Mary Baldwin psychology major, talks about her poster topic at Sweet Briar’s 2013 MARCUS conference. About 90 undergraduate students representing 15 colleges and universities presented at the annual conference.

Sweet Briar College’s Honors Program hosted its 15th annual Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference of Undergraduate Scholarship, known as MARCUS, on Saturday, Oct. 12. About 90 students from more than 15 colleges and universities gave 15-minute oral presentations or displayed posters describing their undergraduate research on topics ranging from the physics of pedaling the Tour de France to “Demystifying Women and Power in Antiquity.”

MARCUS is purposely interdisciplinary, with an emphasis on the intersection of disciplines across the liberal arts spectrum. The conference atmosphere is one of lively inquiry in which the student researchers are the experts, presenting to an audience of their peers.

Kaitie Cartwright ’14 and Katlyn Fleming ’14 are chemistry students working on separate investigations into new treatments for cancer involving platinum compounds. Both participated in the oral presentations.

Cartwright presented on her Honors Summer Research with associate professor of chemistry Abe Yousef and her ongoing honors thesis with professor of chemistry Rob Granger. The project combines previous research by Yousef in natural products chemistry and Granger in organometallic chemistry in the search for a novel compound to treat colorectal cancer — one that minimizes side effects and remains effective over time, as cancer cells tend to develop drug-resistance.

Jessica Barry ’16 talks about her topic, “Vox Populi: Latin Epigraphy at Ephesus from the 1st Century C.E.,” during the poster presentation session.

“I was interested in both projects and so I am glad I got to combine them into one project, which allows me to get experience in different research fields,” says Cartwright, who was hooked on research after taking a lab class last fall.

“I decided in the spring that I wanted to do a thesis and take as much away from my time at Sweet Briar as I can. I have put a lot of time into my major and research thus far, and the chemistry department has helped me do more then I ever expected of myself.

“Presenting at MARCUS is definitely a reflection of my time at Sweet Briar and our awesome chemistry department.”

Jessica Barry’s poster on first-century Latin epigraphy from Ephesus, Turkey, is part of her ongoing research with Sweet Briar archaeologist Keith Adams using photographic methods and Latin translation to understand what the inscriptions tell us about the lives of Roman citizens at the time. For the sophomore archaeology, anthropology and classics major, MARCUS is a dry run for the 2014 Archaeological Institute of America and Southern Anthropological Society conferences, where she plans to present a poster and paper respectively.

Barry is doing her research as a Pannell Scholar and can’t really say where the idea came from.

“One day I suddenly knew that this was what I was going to do. I started to learn Latin here last year and I just really loved the language right from the start,” she says. “I’ve learned so much about photographic methods and translating epigraphy, but the biggest thing I’ve learned is that patience is key, whether it be waiting for that perfect shot or staring at the same five lines of Latin, trying to make sense of the words.”

Other Sweet Briar presenters included Lilian Tauber ’14, a history major who became interested in Middle Eastern history and culture as the Arab Spring unfolded during her first year at Sweet Briar and has studied it ever since; junior engineering major Moriah Donaldson’s approach to treating phantom limb pain in amputees; and sophomore Amy Kvien’s examination of bank branching trends before, during and after the Great Recession, among several others.

They were joined by colleagues from private and public colleges and universities from across Virginia.

Tauber spoke about her most recent research comparing the influence of U.S. foreign policy on political rights in Egypt and Morocco, and was pleased to see related topics presented during her session. The conference lived up to her expectations, she said.

“It was nice to see what students at other colleges and universities are researching. I thought everyone presented well, and the topics were all around most interesting.”

Jennifer McManamay

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Category: Anthropology, Archaeology, Chemistry, Classics, Engineering Science, Environmental Science, History, Honors