Exhibition Assists Graduate Students in Presenting Research

March 19, 2009 — Notes from a solitary piano accompanied the buzz of research talk as more than 100 University of Virginia graduate students gathered in Newcomb Hall for Tuesday's ninth annual Robert J. Huskey Graduate Research Exhibition.

"This is a way for the departments to mingle and really see the research that is being done elsewhere," said Alexandra Garcia, who co-chaired the event with Ken Price of the Arts & Sciences Graduate Student Council's Research Committee. "It's an opportunity for graduate students to support other graduate students and for the presenters to get comments from their peers. The feedback is invaluable for them."

The research ranged from "From the Mother of God to the Mommy Wars: Birth and the American Christian Mother," to "Measurements of Dopamine in Drosophilia Melanogaster Using Fast Scan Cyclic Voltammetry."

"This is a good opportunity for graduate students," said Jennifer A. Joy-Gaba, 26, a psychology student who was presenting her research on how preferences can determine perceived distances. ("If a hiker is wearing a heavy pack, the hill in front of him will look steeper than it will to a hiker with no pack," she explained.)

Joy-Gaba, a Maryland native now living in Charlottesville, said the exhibit gives her an opportunity to talk to people not familiar with her field and forces her to explain her work to laymen. Students selected her to receive a $250 prize for best poster presentation.

James Corson, a bio-psychology graduate student who studies how the brain works, said the exhibit makes him think through his research.

"I need to break things down," he said.

The graduate research exhibit is named after biology professor Robert J. Huskey, a strong advocate for graduate students, whose retirement coincided with the first exhibit in 2001. Garcia said Huskey donated the prize money that is awarded and has also funded some graduate research travel.

While one group of graduate students displayed its work on posters in the ballroom, others made oral presentations on their work in different venues within Newcomb Hall. The presenters were divided into four categories — arts and humanities, biological and biomedical sciences, physical sciences and mathematics, and social and behavioral sciences.

Presentation winners were:

In the physical sciences, first prizes of $500 were presented to Trisha Vickrey, chemistry, "Measurements of Dopamine in Drosophilia Melanogaster Using Fast Scan Cyclic Voltammetry"; David Hondula, environmental sciences, "Decreases in the U.S. 'Transition' Frequency and a New Perspective on United States Climate Change"; and  George Trammel, astronomy, "Revealing the Origin of Young Star Outflows and the Upper Atmosphere of Extrasolar Planets."

Second prizes of $200 were presented to Jeff Carlin, astronomy, "Constraining Fundamental Milky Way Parameters with Stellar Kinematics of Sagittarius Tidal Debris"; John Burke, physics, "Implementation of a Bose-Einstein Condensate Gyroscope"; and David Morris, environmental sciences, "Exploring the Organic Carbon Cycle in the Arctic Ocean."

In the biological sciences, first place prizes of $500 were awarded to Ken Myers, cell biology, "The Role of Arf6 and Brag1 in Dendritic Spine Mophogenesis"; and Noel Derecki, neuroscience, "T Cell-deficiency Results in Skewed Pro-inflammatory Meningeal Immunity: Implications for Learning and Memory."

Second prizes of $200 were awarded to Roshan James, biomedical engineering, "Repair/Regeneration of Rat Achilles Tendon Using Tubular Scaffolds Composed of Non-woven Electrospun PLAGA"; and Scott Pluta, biology, "Active Sensing and Temporal Pattern Selectivity in Midbrain Electrosensory Neurons."

In social and behavioral sciences, $500 first prizes were awarded to Rachel Riskind, psychology, "Parenting Intentions and Desires Among Childless Lesbian, Gay and Heterosexual Individuals"; and Jesse Graham, psychology, "Culture War Casualties: Moral Foundation Endorsement Predicts and Explains Intergroup Attitudes." 

Second prizes worth $200 were awarded to Ashley Pinkmam, psychology, "'I'm Sorry but I Can't Remember Your Name': Preschooler's Lexical Access to Proper Names and Common Nouns"; and Todne Thomas, anthropology, "On 'Creation' and 'M-A-N': Anthropologies of a Black Brethren Church Community in Atlanta, Ga."

In arts and humanities, $500 first prizes were awarded to Karen Guth, religious studies, "Making the Connections: Dietrich Bonhoeffer as Feminsit Ethicist"; and Emily Gravett, religious studies, "Visual Content, Authorial Purpose and the 'Pornographic Gaze': Toward a Phenomenology of Pornography."

Second prizes of $200 were awarded to Pierre Dairon, French, "Evangeline in Discourses, Cultural & National Metaphors"; and Gerrit Roessler, German, "'… durch Unhygiene verwirrt': Motives of Consumption and Cleanliness in Charlotte Roche's 'Feuchtgebiete.'"

Awards were also presented for poster presentations.

In the physical sciences, a $500 first prize went to Karen Mooney, physics.

In the biological sciences a $500 first prize went to Marta Bokowiec, biology; a $200 second prize was given to Alex Garcia, biology; a $150 third prize was given to Julie McClure, cell biology, and a $100 fourth prize was presented to Marta Domanska, molecular physiology.

In the social and behavioral sciences, a $500 first prize was given to Megan Schad, psychology; a $200 second prize was given to Meghan Cody, psychology; a $150 third prize was presented to Jennifer Joy-Gaba, psychology, and a $100 fourth prize was awarded to David Szwedo, psychology.

— By Matt Kelly