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Summer Research Inspires Students to Follow Their Passions: Research Scholars Present Their Findings to the College

by Michevi Dufflart & Alyssa Velazquez

Staff Writer & Editor

This past Thursday and Friday, a diffusion of knowledge occurred in the Kelly Commons as the works and findings from over 75 student research projects conducted over the summer and past year were showcased.

Their research covered a wide range of topics such as the transhumanist elements displayed in anime artwork, studies of worker cooperatives and even a study of cacti in the desert.

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Through the college’s Summer Research Program, undergraduate students are granted a stipend for their studies and many had the opportunity to conduct research on- and off-campus. However, now that the projects have come to an end for many, these students show off their findings in two presentation days at the end of September.

The first day of presentations consisted of an address from keynote speaker Martha Brown, Ph.D., daughter of the late physics professor Edward Brown, followed by a dinner and a student research poster session. During the poster session people had to the opportunity to speak to the students to find out more information about their research and ask any questions they may have had.

The second day of presentations focused on each student individually, giving them the opportunity to showcase their work in a ten minute presentation, followed by a short question and answer session. One of the students who was first to present for the day was Kevin Donald.

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Donald’s topic of research was titled “Androids and Anime Fans: Soft-Transhumanism in the Consumption and Creation of Postmodern Anime.” When presenting his research at the poster session, Donald stated that he initially wasn’t a fan of anime and was unfamiliar with this form of animation. With this, Donald also had to study the post-modern culture of Japan in order to fully understand the different elements and features that are displayed in the animes he chose to analyze.

One element of anime that Donald studied was the role of the Otaku, otherwise known as the fans of anime. One fan of anime was Tsutomu Miyazaki Now regarded as the Otaku Killer, Miyazaki was known for the killing of four young girls in Japan between 1988 and 1989. Although Miyazaki was a consumer of Anime, Donald makes it a point that Miyazaki was also a producer because his room was eventually redesigned in a film scene to be the room of one of the characters.

Another element that Donald decided to research more on was the role that technology serves in anime. The combination of technology and the human body is often portrayed in animes. This typically results in the human body’s inability to sustain itself which leads to the technology’s growth and eventual control of the human body. Through the soft-transhumanism elements in anime, people are able to see how this style of film reflects back to everyday aspects of society.

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During the Education and Health presentations, two seniors, Josh Miesner and John Amato both exercise science majors, presented their research called “The Combined Effects of Blood Flow Restriction Training and Cross Education on Untrained Arm Girth and Maximal Strength.”

Miesner and Amato both became interested in doing research on these topics after realizing that no one had ever studied the effects of both types of training at the same time.

As described by Miesner, in blood flow restriction training, a cuff is placed on the arm which restricts blood flow to veins, but in the process, increases production of lactic acid.

In cross education, the body works to send signals to both sides when only one side is working. As an example, Amato mentioned throwing darts with your dominant arm, but still receiving the same training effects in the less dominant arm.

Their research, which was conducted at the end of last semester, required students to exercise using both blood flow restriction training and cross education. Thus students only exercised one arm for five weeks and then Miesner and Amato measured the strength in the other arm to see how it was affected.

After the five weeks, Miesner and Amato found that the arm muscle in the unexercised arm had a growth of 1 centimeter. Both noted that this is unusual because it usually takes about 8-12 weeks for arm muscles to grow 1 centimeter when it is exercised.

The two agree that the experience was very rewarding and hope their research can have more practical uses in rehabilitation or stroke patients.

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Another student who hopes their research can make an impact in the future lives of others is junior mechanical engineer Alessandra Palmisano.

 

Palmisano’s research, titled “Study of Concussions on Female Soccer Players,” involved designing equipment and code that did not hinder the player during active play and worked well in measuring the acceleration after the soccer player made contact with the ball.

After creating this code, Palmisano found that when she plugged in idealistic velocity values such as the average velocity of the soccer ball, she obtained results that indicated a concussion, which is a very serious and even life threatening injury.

Through her research, Palmisano hopes she can help prevent others from sustaining these injuries and raise awareness about minimizing concussions in the future.

While many students did research on campus, others, such as juniors Marissa Locastro and Cole Johnson, both biology majors, conducted research off campus, in Arizona. Their research titled, “Bark Formation and Death Progression in Saguaro Cacti,” is part of the continuing research of a professor.

Both Locastro and Johnson found the research an interesting opportunity and decided to embark on the journey.

While in Tucson, Arizona Locastro and Johnson spent five weeks in the desert collecting data on hundreds of cacti. The cacti tested had bark growing on them preventing gas exchange and therefore increasing the rate of death of the cacti. The data they collected thus allowed them to predict when a cactus was going to die. What they discovered is that while cacti used to live for 300 or more years, they are now living for less than 200.

Locastro and Johnson mention that one of the best parts of their research was rarely ever feeling like they were doing work and applying what they learned in class, out in a real setting.

Another student who was able to connect their research to a real world setting is Emily Center. Center’s research, titled “Challenging the Social Order: Worker Cooperatives Live out the Vision of Dorothy Day,” allowed her to travel to different locations to hear from people first hand about her topic and develop relationships with them.

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One location Center visited was the Peter Maurin Farm, named after Peter Maurin who helped found the Catholic Worker Movement with Dorothy Day in the early 1900s. When visiting the farm, Center had the opportunity to interview some of the workers and representatives.

Center emphasizes the importance of interviewing these workers and building relations with them when stating, “I was able to learn so much that I became more and more invested in my topic of worker cooperatives, and this allowed me to build great relationships with those I interviewed and met for my research.”

Her passion, being ignited from the research she has done this past summer, has encouraged her to continue studying worker cooperatives throughout this fall semester.

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As shown by many of the research scholars, students have been able to take topics they were interested in and turn them into topics they were passionate about. Center recounts on her research by referring to some key advice from the keynote speaker, Martha Brown, when stating, “the most rewarding part of my research this summer was building a real love for my topic and a foundation for future research on that topic.”

The last bit of advice that Brown concluded her address with, not only for the research scholars but any student interested in research, was to “take the time to build your own foundation, whatever that means for you, one that’s going to support you through all of the excited times that I know are ahead of you.”

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The Quadrangle, founded in 1924, is the student-run newspaper of Manhattan College.
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