Students Present at Undergraduate Research Symposium

by B.J. Koubaroulis

Jessica Alva stood in front of the 48-inch poster she had placed on her easel and spoke quickly and passionately, often using her hands to help elaborate on the story depicted on the white poster behind her.

“Outness, openness and visibility are often used interchangeably and they’re not,” said Alva as she explained her topic of research: Sexual Orientation: Visibility as a Predictor of Daily Mood in Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Individuals.

Alva, a psychology major, was just one of several presenters at the college's Undergraduate Research Symposium in Dewberry Hall. The April 14, 2009, event welcomed students engaged in scholarly research or creative projects to present their findings.

In a series of stations -- 31 posters positioned throughout Dewberry Hall -- students presented the findings of their research and welcomed questions and discussion from many of the faculty and students who attended.

“One of the strengths of our college is the emphasis within many of our programs on developing strong research skills,” said Dr. Glenda Morgan, co-chair of the symposium. "These skills put students in very good stead when they move on to their next big challenge, whether that be graduate school or the workplace. The Undergraduate Research Symposium gives our students an opportunity to highlight the fruits of some of that training to a university audience.”

There were six winners in areas such as, “Best Research,” “Best Use of Technology,” and “Best Poster.”

Topics included sexual orientation, money and morality, the effect of speech accents, understanding the real world effects of interruption, advancing communication technology in healthcare to reduce medical errors, death squads in the post Cold War era, crib speech, poetry, and Mesoamerican collection research.

“In looking at the quality of research projects, it is hard to believe that these are undergraduate students,” Associate Dean for Research Matthew Zingraff said.

The George Mason University Mesoamerican Collections Research Project was represented by anthropology major Lynn Godino, who, with fellow students Elizabeth Arnold and Amber Cox under the direction of Dr. Alexander Benitez, is studying part of a collection that houses more than 52,000 Columbian objects from Mesoamerica.

The artifacts are housed at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American India (NMAI), one of the most comprehensive and diverse collections of Pre-Columbian objects anywhere in the United States.

“It’s like piecing together a puzzle,” said Godino as she stood in front of a poster that showed pictures of some of the artifacts. “A lot of these objects were collected in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as art objects, basically. The collectors were buying and selling and as they were wheeling and dealing, the objects’ cultural significance, well, [the collectors] they didn’t really care about that. So many museums have the vast collections, but they don’t have the resources to try nail down the affiliations and that’s what we’re doing. So it’s a win-win for everyone.”