April 28, 2020

In its fourth year, the Hampden-Sydney College Student Research Symposium has gone virtual—for the first time, students presented their research to faculty, staff, and peers from their homes.

Andrew Howell '20  in the labUnder normal circumstances, this spring would have seen students busy finishing up months of undergraduate research at Hampden-Sydney—completing their projects in the laboratories of Gilmer Hall, the studios of Brinkley, or deep in the stacks of Bortz Library. But these are not normal circumstances. Instead, students and faculty have found themselves behind computer screens perfecting their work from afar. On April 21 and 22, students across disciplines, from rhetoric and the sciences to history and the arts, presented their research and final projects via live conference call in what was to become the first virtual Student Research Symposium.

Director of Undergraduate Research, Dr.  Michael Wolyniak recalls, When we found out that a face-to-face symposium would not be possible this year, we wanted to create a way for our honors senior capstone students, departmental distinction candidates, and other students to showcase their independent work over the course of the academic year.” Wolyniak describes how he and H-SC staff cooperatively put together a program that provided students with live, 30-minute time blocks over a two-day period on the Zoom platform. Wolyniak was impressed at the students' willingness to adapt to the virtual format within a compressed schedule.

“I thought that the virtual symposium was very successful, despite our limitations,” says philosophy and theatre major Robert Morris ’20. In his presentation titled “The Theatre of a Thousand Faces,” Robert used his philosophy background to analyze the purpose and role of theatre in society. “Being a theatre person, I have a certain affinity for live performance, so I was saddened that I was unable to give my talk in the format I had planned,” says Robert. “But I thought that the College, and particularly Dr. Wolyniak, did an exceptional job reacting to changing circumstances.”

Certainly this isn't how any of us seniors wanted our year to end, but this transition is also a great learning experience, as it can prove to people that they can be more flexible than they think.

Andrew Howell '20

For biochemistry and molecular biology major Andrew Howell ’20 and many of his peers, time was on their side, and they were able to use the substantial amount of research they had collected up until spring break to move fairly seamlessly into the writing phase. Acknowledging that “for senior science guys it was even more of a challenge since many of us were working to finish up our departmental and honors projects,” Andrew was confident that their resourcefulness would see them through. “I know that those in Gilmer Hall are a resourceful bunch and a move to remote learning wouldn't be the end for our research,” Andrew says.A screenshot of a presentation on the Zoom platform"Certainly this isn't how any of us seniors wanted our year to end, but this transition is also a great learning experience, as it can prove to people that they can be more flexible than they think.”

A link to the recording of Andrew’s presentation, “The Development of 3D Printable Stretch Bioreactors, and the other symposium presentations can be found on the Virtual Student Research Symposium page.

At the conclusion of the symposium, Andrew was awarded the inaugural Anderson Prize for Excellence in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, in honor of retiring McGavacks Professor of Chemistry Bill Anderson. This prize will be given each April at Final Convocation to the student who has shown the most leadership and promise in the classroom and the laboratory in biochemistry and molecular biology during their time at Hampden-Sydney.

2020 Student Research Symposium

Student Research at H-SC

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