Student Researchers Strut Their Stuff at SymposiumDo energy drinks pose a risk to the unborn? Do tango dancers process music differently than non-dancers? Is social entrepreneurship the new philanthropy?

These and dozens of other fascinating questions were the subject of research on display at this years' Spring Symposium at Saint Mary's College.

Nearly 30 student researchers presented their work in the poster sessions on May 4 and took turns explaining their work to the crowd of students and faculty members in the Soda Center.

Studies of Energy Drinks, Dancers' Brains, Philanthropy

Among the many fascinating presentations were these:

Wayne Doyle worked with Professor Vidya Chandrasekaran in the second year of a continuing study of the cellular effects of energy drinks. He injected 5-Hour Energy into chick embryos and found that the embryos had shorter bodies and legs and longer beaks than normal embryos. In another experiment, they injected Monster Nitrous energy drink and found evidence of fibrosis, which is an indicator of kidney disease. Doyle said that although other researchers have studied the effects of energy drinks, the Saint Mary's study is the only one to look at the effects of the high-powered drinks on embryos.

Constanza de Dios and Nicholas Wan hooked up tango dancers to EKGs and found that the dancers had a unique way of mentally processing music that nondancers didn't share. The effects were evident even when the dancers were just sitting and listening to music. The study was supervised by Professors Mari-Ann Rosario and Hiroko Nakano.

Vanessa Strachan worked with Professor Norman Bedford to research the relatively new phenomenon of social entrepreneurship -- often summed up as doing well financially by doing good for the world -- and made a case for it as "the New Philanthropy." She studied the business model of Tom's shoes, which pioneered a "one-for-one" program that gives away a pair of shoes to a child in a third-world country for every pair of shoes it sells. Then she compared it to a Skechers knockoff called BOBs. The researchers found that consumers were wary of the knockoff; to the philanthropically-minded, it seems, authenticity counts.

Personal Branding, Judicial Activism and More

Other research projects included a presentation on Me 2.0, the value of personal branding and one on judicial activism; two studies of the enzyme known as thimet digopeptidase; a study of the genetics of vitis vinifera, also known as the grape vine; a look at how the religious movement called the Great Awakening influenced Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women"; a study of the first Lasallian schools in Italy; and research on the super-competitive Asian parenting style known as the "Tiger Mom."

A week later, on May 12, anthropology students presented their research on topics ranging from expectations of first-generation college students and attitudes about Saint Mary's Catholic affiliation to a study of women and tattoos and one entitled "Don't Come Back Fat: Deconstructing the Freshman Fifteen."

View a complete list of the Spring Symposium presentations.

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