William & Mary Hosts Cross-Disciplinary Research Symposium

WYDaily.com is your source for free news and information in Williamsburg, James City & York Counties.

An image from the 2015 Graduate Research Symposium. (Courtesy College of William & Mary)
An image from the 2015 Graduate Research Symposium. (Courtesy College of William & Mary)

William & Mary hosted its 15th annual Graduate Research Symposium last weekend, continuing its tradition of providing a forum to bring together students from all 11 of the college’s Arts & Sciences graduate programs.

The symposium took place Friday and Saturday at the Sadler Center and was themed around the idea of “Fifteen Years of Excellence in Research.”

“Our students contribute seriously to human understanding on their way to advanced degrees,” William & Mary President Taylor Reveley wrote in a letter of welcome to participants. “The symposium provides an opportunity for our graduate students and their peers from other schools to present their work and receive comments from people in other departments and schools, as well as the greater William & Mary community.”

Students from 16 visiting institutions joined William & Mary students for a total of more than 150 participants in this year’s symposium.

In addition to providing students with an outlet to discuss and share their work, awards totaling $8,500 were given out to recognize “excellence in scholarship in the humanities and social sciences and in the natural and computational sciences,” according to a recent article from William & Mary.

Andrew Kottick, Summer Moore and Charles Fancher were the recipients of the top three prizes this year.

Kottick, a Ph.D. student who has spent four years conducting research with William & Mary’s Systems Neuroscience Lab, received the Interdisciplinary Award for Excellence in Research. His research has helped pinpoint which brain cells are responsible for stimulating the motor neurons that make breathing possible, the applications of which include treatments for numerous breathing disorders.

Moore received the Market Access International, Inc., Award for Excelling in Scholarship in the Humanities and Social Sceices for her work to better understand how an isolated Hawaiian community was affected by European contact in the early 19th century. She is a current Ph.D. student in anthropology at William & Mary and has lived on site at a remote archaeological dig on the island of Kauai for years to conduct her research.

Finally, Fancher’s research as a Ph.D. student in physics at William & Mary garnered him the Northrop Grumman Corporation Award for Excellence in Scholarship in the Natural and Computational Sciences. He has been part of the team studying the affects of warming ultra-cold atoms to a temperature just above absolute zero – a process that has the potential to advance precision-oriented technologies like atomic clocks and inertial navigation systems.

An additional $1,500 in awards were distributed for excellence in undergraduate mentoring in the humanities and social sciences and in the natural and computational sciences.

“What’s great about the symposium is that you can be very good at explaining your research at discipline-specific conferences, but this gives you a unique challenge to explain your research to those outside your field,” said Jenna Carlson Dietmeier, a Ph.D. student in anthropology and chair of this year’s Graduate Research Symposium, in a recent article from William & Mary. “As an attendee, it’s mind-blowing to see the breadth of topics presented each year.”