April 19, 2012


Students show off research

Over 60 SUNY Cortland projects presented at annual conference

StudentsBob Ellis/staff photographer
SUNY Cortland sophomore Erinn Rodman tapes a poster to the wall as junior Theresa Stark looks on. They were preparing for the poster session of Transformations, a student research and creativity conference held Wednesday at the college.

Staff Reporter

SUNY Cortland senior philosophy major Michael Panetta began researching civil disobedience because he heard Boston's mayor tell the public last fall that protesters in Occupy Boston would not be tolerated.
Senior psychology majors Jacqueline Deluise, Amber Denman and Kelly Foster studied eighth-graders' perceptions of college because Deluise and Denman are doing internships in middle school guidance offices.
They were some of the students who presented research, either in poster form or in short lectures, Wednesday during the college's Transformations scholarly conference at Sperry Center.
The event was previously known as Scholars Day. In recent years, it was held on a Friday and classes were canceled so students could attend presentations.
But many students chose to spend the day partying instead, so SUNY Cortland moved it back to midweek and had classes as scheduled. Faculty panels were also eliminated this year, to place the focus on students.
The result was crowds of students, faculty, retired faculty and local residents listening to presentations in large lecture rooms or asking students about their posters, which covered biology, kinesiology, therapeutic recreation, sport management, psychology, and a range of other disciplines.
The program listed 109 student presenters with 50 projects, including graduate students, and 19 posters representing research by 36 students.
R. Bruce Mattingly, dean of arts and sciences, said he was pleased with the location and format.
He said Sperry Center was chosen because of available classroom space. Presentations were clustered at random in some ways, for what he called a "cross talk" among disciplines, to show students different areas of research.
Panetta discussed how civil disobedience fits into society, when it becomes something more threatening to the public and why its presence shows the flaws in a society.
"I heard Boston's mayor say that civil disobedience would not be tolerated, and I wondered why it was tolerated in the 1960s but not now," he said afterward. He said he plans to earn a doctorate and become a college professor.
Deluise, Denman and Foster had panel discussions with eighth-graders at Dryden and Marathon middle schools, comparing their perceptions of college.
Dryden students were more likely to be thinking about college, they found.
"We wanted them to get an idea of what college is," Denman said.
"It's good for them to see what is ahead, that college is not just for people with money," Foster said.
Their sponsor, psychology professor Margaret Anderson, said the research will help them become school guidance counselors. She said some schools introduce students to college plans as early as fifth grade.
Seniors Hope Ostrander and Catherine Crossway chose to study the difference between grass and asphalt on mammal skulls dropped from different heights.
They dropped six pig heads — supplied by a meat packing company — from a building used for training by the Homer Fire Department and from a ladder bucket on a Cicero Fire Department vehicle. Three were dropped onto grass and three onto asphalt, from three heights: 11 feet, 6 inches; 20 feet, 5 inches; and 29 feet.
The students packed the heads in ice, brought them to a lab and removed the flesh to examine the skull and jaw bones.
They found the bones were damaged far less by impact with grass, where they broke when they hit the asphalt — the bone "shredded" on the fall from 29 feet.
Ostrander, a biology major, told the roughly 40 students and faculty that said she hopes to become a veterinarian and wanted to see the impact on the pig skulls the students used. Crossway, an anthropology major, said she focuses on human rights and on how to investigate injuries to people from atrocities.
"Plus we live together," Crossway said.
One woman asked if this showed it was fine for police to throw protesters around on grass compared to asphalt.
"I don't want them thrown anywhere," Crossway said.
Some students at the presentations or asking questions about the posters said they were interested in research in their field, or by friends.
Freshman Mike Knox, who plans to major in Spanish education, viewed every poster and spoke with the student researchers. He said he was interested in all the subjects he saw.
"That one is useful," he said, indicating a kinesiology student's study of cycling mechanics. "I ride the bike after I work out, so that shows the best technique."
Other students took notes on poster presentations. Anderson said they were doing it for extra credit in courses.


To read this article and more, pick up today's Cortland Standard
Click here to subscribe