Research that Energizes - Hobart and William Smith Colleges
The HWS Update
Student Research Symposium 3

Research that Energizes

Student Research Symposium 2From aspiring computer scientists and conservation biologists to motivated artists and activists, more than 80 students presented at the Student Research Symposium during this year’s Homecoming and Family Weekend. The annual event gives participants in the Colleges’ Summer Research Program the opportunity to share their works with fellow students, parents, faculty and alums.

During the summer, students are given financial support to work side-by-side with faculty mentors, and in the process conduct critical research and contribute to academic papers. Students often continue to pursue their topic of research into the academic year in the form of an independent study or an Honors project.

“For most students, this is the most impactful academic experience they will have here at the Colleges,” says Joseph Rusinko, associate dean for faculty development and affairs and associate professor of mathematics and computer science. “These students are creating knowledge which for some will lead to publication in professional journals.”

This year, research topics ranged from the history behind Geneva’s Smith Opera House, to the atmospheric ramifications of a tropical cyclone, and experiments creating and testing compounds that could be implemented into cancer-fighting drugs.

Student Research Symposium 3Swellar Zhuo ’19, who worked with Associate Professor of Sociology Renee Monson, analysed 11 years of self-assessment data from 263 students in 70 groups to determine group composition affects leadership dynamics in undergraduate group research projects. “The opportunity to do social science research allowed me to experiment with something I was not familiar with and gain a new perspective on a topic that interests me,” says Zhuo. “This will be useful when I am exploring graduate schools and my future career.”

Loretta Hauslauer ’19 developed a proposal for a Spanish for the Professions textbook with Associate Professor and Chair of Spanish and Hispanic Studies Caroline Travalia. Hauslauer says she wanted to write a textbook that used the communicative approach to teach Spanish in the workplace, employing methods that encourage learning through conversation. She was also interested in creating a guide that could be applied to a variety of professions, rather than solely to health care or business, as well as one that had a focus on community engagement.

“I plan to pursue the field of education and teach English as a second language,” says Hauslauer, a former member of America Reads who is completing her TOEFL Certificate. “This project has allowed me to explore and analyze my teaching philosophy and what approach I would like to take in my career.”

Under Travalia’s guidance, Hauslauer is writing the textbook as part of an independent study this semester. She hopes the textbook will be published next year and that the book can be used as part of a new Spanish and Hispanic Studies course taught by Travalia.

Student Research Symposium 4During the symposium, environmental research being conducted through HWS’ Finger Lakes Institute was also presented. This summer, Davis Ryan ’19 studied “Mercury Concentrations in Fish of the Finger Lakes Region.”

Ryan’s findings show that the overall mercury levels of regionally sourced fish have increased. He worked with Director of FLI Lisa Cleckner and FLI Lab Manager Trevor Massey to collect fish samples and compare combinations of fish species, lengths and habitats to produce accurate data.

“This work has connected me to the region and given me the opportunity to spend time on the water,” says Ryan, who conducted parts of his research aboard the William Scandling, the Colleges’ 65-foot research vessel.

Rusinko, who mentored several students during the summer and organized the Student Symposium, appreciates the passion that students showed in completing their research. “It energises me as a professor,” he says.

Preparing Students to Lead Lives of Consequence.