Students share projects at BioFest

By Hannah Kinzer

BioFest, Lawrence’s annual showcase of biology Senior Experience and Honors projects, was held on Friday, May 22 in the Somerset Room in the Warch Campus Center. The event was open to the campus, families and the public.

This year there were 47 projects displayed. The topics ranged from “Understanding Alzheimer’s: From the Biological Basis to Ethical Implications” to “The Future of Bjorklunden: A Study in White Cedar’s (Thuja occidentalis) Bioclimatic Envelope.” Biology Senior Experience Coordinator Cindy Duckert noted that “[BioFest] is the time when [students] get to see that whole breadth and depth of biology. The biology Senior Experience includes interdisciplinary sciences, such as biochemistry, biophysics and neuroscience.”

Students begin their biology Senior Experiences during their junior year by exploring possible projects ideas. Project work may include research, internships, or creation of an artwork or book on a specific biology topic. Students are also required to write a paper summarizing their project results, biological significance and comparison to current science literature. Students complete the project during the final Senior Experience course.

The biology Senior Experience is a culmination of work. Senior Savannah Vogel, who presented her Senior Experience and Honors project “Determining Isoform Specificity of the Caenorhabditis elegans Transcription Factor DAF-19,” said, “It teaches you perseverance … I think I gained a lot of skills in optimization, because you go into your experiment … and you say what are the aspects that might have actually worked, and what do I need to change to make it better.”

The presentations at BioFest are a synthesis of student knowledge, work and experience. “Most people have spent somewhere between nine months and two years working on this project,” said Duckert. “ And all of that research, … all the talks, all the classroom time, all of these things built up into the [project] that they now get to share with their colleagues, family and friends.”

Each year, students who complete biology Senior Experience and Honors projects display and present their projects at BioFest. A majority of this year’s projects were displayed with posters, although some projects included products of research such as wine, videos and children’s books.

At the event, attendees walked around the room and asked questions to students about their research. Duckert explained “… one of the aspects of our Senior Experience in biology is learning to communicate to anyone the ‘why it matters’ part of the science, but still including that wonder and awe that really inspired you to participate.”

Attendees included family, friends, students, professors and other members of the larger community. Duckert noted that people who have research done at their institutions usually come support the event, as well as those looking to provide resources to student studies.

Other grade levels could engage in the event as well. Juniors had the option to judge projects. Clipboards and judging sheets were provided to these students at a station. There was also a station with forms for declaring a major to encourage students interested in the natural sciences to declare their major. BioFest attendant and freshman Lauren Deveikis explained that “[BioFest] not only helps to showcase the hard work and passion displayed by the biology majors, but also allows younger students to get a taste of the potential opportunities [of] studying biology.”