Research Fair Highlights Student Work in Multiple Fields

Classroom Experiences Inspire Students to Pursue Research in Disciplines of Interest


Published: November 20, 2008

What do the fields of organic chemistry, biology, philosophy, economics, psychology and politics have in common? All were represented at the multidisciplinary Research Fair hosted by the Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) department of natural sciences on Nov. 13.

“The fair is mainly science, but I like students to be able to present unconventional research,” said Jason Grief, dean of juniors and transfer students, about the diversity of topics included in the fair. Grief said that he seeks out liberal arts researchers to increase the scope of the event.

“I’m very impressed with what the students present. Some is very high-level research. We have sophomores doing it, and that feels rare to me. I’m proud of it,” Grief said.

Thirty-two projects were organized around the borders of the Lowenstein Plaza, and students on their way to class or the cafeteria paused to browse through the various research projects presented.

“Our aims in hosting this event are to let the university show off what its students are doing, to allow students to show what they’ve done to a wider audience and to help students build their resumes and prepare for conferences,” Grief said.

Some students, such as Caitlin Willis, FCLC ’11, used their research opportunity to broaden their knowledge in fields they were curious about. Willis is an art history major who pursued a project in philosophy and theology.

“The project was a natural continuation. I wasn’t satisfied with my current knowledge of philosophy,” she said.

Peter Muller, FCLC ’10, used skills he learned as a math major to explore economics in his project entitled “Chaos in a Simple Form of Price-Demand Model.”

Rev. Robert R. Grimes, S.J., dean of FCLC, said at the awards ceremony that followed the fair, “I think research is one of the most important things in college; [it is] supremely important. You become part of the ongoing creation of knowledge. I want to congratulate you; every project I saw was very impressive,”

“I gained invaluable laboratory experience while working on this project,” said Kelley Mowatt, FCLC ’09, who presented an organic chemistry project that studied an enzyme in lobsters.

“I eventually want to work in neuroscience, but I want broad experiences and I’m glad I had this opportunity,” she said.

Several of the student presenters said that a class they had taken inspired their research. Muller said that he took a math modeling class with Frederick Marotto, professor of mathematics at FCLC, which led him to his research.

“I took Professor Takooshian’s urban psychology course, and we ended up working together on this project,” said Amanda Vardi, FCLC ’10, who conducted experiments in the city to find out if New Yorkers have become more helpful and caring since Sept. 11, 2001.

“We’re living in a place today, after 9/11, where we should want to help [people] who need it,” she said.

Erica D’Aquila, FCLC ’09, also did research that focused on helping people. Her presentation was based on her trip to South Africa last August, in which she observed the impact of the AIDS epidemic.

D’Aquila said, “Living in New York, you get so wrapped up in the everyday, miniscule things, like if you’re going to make your train. Take a step back and look at the world—what’s worth it? There are people everywhere who need everybody’s help.” She said that she currently works at Mount Sinai Medical Center doing HIV research and that she plans to take her MCATs in April and eventually work for Doctors Without Borders.

For some presenters, like Vardi, the fair was the second time they shared their research, and for others, it was a rehearsal for conferences in the future. Some students, like Mowatt, are working on their research on an ongoing basis. The Research Fair gave students a chance to share their work and their passion with others, including their professors.

“It means a lot when your professors know your name,” said Mowatt, who had originally planned to study communications but decided to switch to a natural science

D’Aquila said, about her trip to South Africa and her experiences with those affected by HIV/AIDS, “We look around, say ‘wow’ and ‘now what?’” That same sentiment can describe the process of academic research and the meaning behind the Research Fair, as well.