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Families Applaud Student Research

Poster Presentation
Wenxi Li '10 presents her work on the historical shift in African-American political allegiances during the Family Weekend poster session in the Kirner-Johnson Commons. She worked on the project as a Levitt Summer Research Fellow under Professor of History Doug Ambrose.

Family Weekend gave more than 100 Hamilton students who did summer research a big stage, and they made the most of it. Poster sessions for Emerson Summer Collaboration Grants, Levitt Summer Research Fellows and summer science research grants drew enthusiastic throngs to Kirner-Johnson commons and the Science Center's Wellin Atrium Oct. 31, impressing ­parents, alumni, classmates and faculty members with the depth and breadth of the work.

Associate Professor of Economics Jeff Pliskin, director of the Arthur Levitt Public Affairs Center, called the poster sessions a great way to "share with the community the high-quality research our students did over the summer." Associate Director for Community Research Judy Owens-Manley, who worked with Dan Rudel '10 on his Levitt project titled "Theories for Community Integration: Refugees in Utica., N.Y.," said summer research and the subsequent poster sessions "give students a real opportunity to delve into something in depth in a way they can't during the school year. Hamilton promotes this one-on-one connection" between students and faculty members, she said.

Andrew Miller '10 worked with Professor of Economics Chris Georges on a Levitt project titled "Agent-Based Modeling of Firm Dynamics and Labor Turnover." The summer research grant was "really an opportunity to explore things I've gained an interest in, in-depth," Miller said. "I'm grateful Professor Georges encouraged me to do it and that Hamilton provides opportunities to do things like this over the summer."

Nancy McMillan, whose nephew Kevin O'Connor '09 presented a poster titled "Renewing Anacostia and Shaw: Interactions between Class, Race and Conceptions of Place in the Nation's Capital," enjoyed the session in KJ commons. "I'm impressed that these students who are not seniors but underclassmen have done this level of work in their early years of college," she said.

Emerson Grant projects ­covered a wide array of topics and disciplines, including "Slight of Tongue: Code-switching Phenomenon" (Eileen Rivera '10 with Assistant Professor of East Asian Languages and Literatures Masaaki Kamiya), "Misinterpreting the Middle East: Western Bias in Approaches in Middle Eastern History" (Kelsey Rice '10 with Associate Professor of History Shoshana Keller) and "Why We Need Supermen: The Purpose of Superheroes in Society" (Brendan Conway '09 with Assistant Professor of English Tina Hall).

Over in the Science Center, a large crowd perused posters on such topics as "Grain Size Distribution in the Eastern Basin of Oneida Lake" (Megan Fung '10 with Eugene Domack, the J.W. Johnson Family Professor of ­Geosciences), "ADHS Symptomatology and College Adjustment" (Sam Colalillo '10 and Anthony Sali '10 with Assistant Professor of ­Psychology Tara McKee) and "Quenching Resistance of Chelated Fluorescent Trivalent Ianthanide" (Matthew Breen '11 with Professor of Chemistry Karen Brewer, associate dean of students for academics).

Professor of Biology David Gapp said posters — and student-faculty research — have come a long way since he started working with students in 1985. The first formal program in summer research began in 1991 with about eight students, and "we didn't have poster sessions until years later," Gapp said. Over time the numbers have grown, and this summer 82 students worked with a Hamilton science faculty member. Bill Pfitsch, associate professor of biology, noted that summer collaborative research "gives students a complete experience of the scientific venture. They learn it can be frustrating, fun and that an experiment does not always work out."

Parents of science students were impressed with what they saw and learned. Joe Maglaty, father of Marisa '09, said he found that "the level of research looks like graduate school work."

The poster sessions were just one of many highlights of the extended Family Weekend, Oct. 30-Nov. 2. Other events included a Theater Department production of Roberto Zucco; performances by the College Choir, College Hill Singers and Hamilton College Orchestra and Jazz Ensemble; dance students performing newly choreographed pieces by Hamilton dance professors; a Midnight Madness basketball showcase benefit; entertainment from Yodapez: Student Comedy Improv, and Freestyle Love Supreme; presentations from the Career Center, Adirondack Adventure and Hamilton Alumni Leadership Training; poetry and creative writing readings from Associate Professor of English Naomi Guttman and Visiting Assistant Professor of English Jane Springer; President Joan Hinde Stewart's State of the ­College address; a variety of ­discussions with student life administrators; campus tours; and a full schedule of sports events including football, women's field hockey, and men's and women's soccer.

For more information about 2008 Summer Research projects at Hamilton, see www.hamilton.edu/summerresearch. Information about 2009 summer research opportunities will be available at the beginning of the spring semester.