Students participate in summer research fair

Research highlighted in three minute presentations.

The Summer Undergraduate Research Fair (SURF) took place this past Friday at Mount Allison University in Tweedie Hall of the Wallace McCain Student Centre. SURF is an annual event that gives Mt. A students the chance to share and present their research to a general audience. Presenters had a choice of either an oral or a poster presentation, which was then judged by a panel made up of Mt. A faculty and notable members of the Sackville community.

Tweedie Hall was full of audience members eager to hear what students had to present. At one point, more chairs had to be set out to accommodate the influx of arriving audience members. Mt. A Dean of Arts Hans vanderLeest delivered the opening remarks for the event, noting that SURF is the highlight of early fall and that “research is a key element of any university.”

The first presentation of the fair, given by Desiree Gregory, was entitled “Students’ experiences with school-based sex education.” Under the supervision of Lisa Dawn Hamilton of the psychology department, Gregory examined experiences with sex education and opinions on how it can be improved.

Students from all disciplines presented at the fair, from arts (such as philosophy and English), to social sciences (such as anthropology and psychology), to science (such as biology, biochemistry, math, and physics). 

Some students’ research took more than one summer to complete. Kylie de Chastelain’s research, entitled “Schooling for inequality: An analysis of hidden curriculum in Canada’s elementary social studies programs” has been in the works for over two summers. 

Other students’ research took going across the Atlantic to complete. Four of the presenters worked with physics professor Dave Hornidge and completed their research in Mainz, Germany, at Johannes Gutenburg Universitat’s Institut fuer KeyrnPhsik. 

This year, a new format was implemented called the three minute thesis. This format, developed by the University of Queensland in Australia, has students present their research to an audience in only three minutes. Students are permitted only a single slide of information, and presentations are to be spoken word only (i.e. animations are not allowed). This is a change compared to last year’s format, which had presenters speak for ten minutes.

The three minute thesis format of the presentations provided challenges for some presenters. Zack Delaney, whose presentation in mathematics was entitled “Eternal domination on 3 x N grids,” explained that the format “works well for some genres.” 

“It’s hard to explain the necessary background, in addition to saying some[thing more] meaningful that will be understood,” he explained. “It leaves you wanting more.”

Biology student Amie MacDonald, whose presentation was entitled “Impacts of invasive green crabs on mudflats of the upper Bay of Fundy,” claimed that “some projects limit themselves to the format,” explaining that some projects that require lots of background knowledge may be more of a challenge to present.

“I feel that my subject lent itself to the format more easily than others. It is an interesting way to give a general idea of the breadth of research,” she explained. 

MacDonald felt the experience was positive, and felt that an event like this is great exposure for Mt. A research.

“Someone in first year or second could come to an event like this, and see what opportunities are available.” 

Desiree Gregory and Kelsey Laurensen, two student coordinators of the event, felt that the new presentation format is a positive thing.

“It may be a turn-off for students, but it allows for more people to speak,” Gregory explained. “It’s like a conversation.”

Laurensen added, “it creates an equal playing field—they are doing the best they can, and no one has an advantage.”

This event allowed presenters to gain valuable presentation experience by having them show off their summer research work in front of friends, colleagues, and the community. This event also allowed the audience to see what discoveries are being made in all disciplines of research at Mt. A. 

The winner for overall best presentation was Canadian studies and sociology student Kylie de Chastelain. The winner of the poster presentations was Corey Filiaggi, a biology student whose presentation was entitled “Assessing the risk of lyme disease in New Brunswick.” Runner-up prizes for presentations were also given: one for arts and social sciences, and one for science. The arts and social sciences runner-up was Jennifer Duguay, with “Cultural variants on death and dying,” and the science runner-up was Robin Bessemer, with “Novel methods of localizing the seizure focus in epilepsy.” 

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