Research results presented at McNair Fall Symposium


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Shelby Township senior Jacob Bahry presents research on Sep. 29 in the Auditorium at Park Library. 

Students of differing majors gathered in the Charles V. Park Library auditorium Friday to discuss their ongoing research at the annual McNair Research Fall Symposium.

The presenters were members of the McNair Scholar Program. The program was founded in 1989 to honor Ronald McNair, a laser physicist and astronaut who died in the 1986 Challenger space shuttle crash.

The program prepares its candidates for Ph.D. studies through research projects, among other activities. The scholars team up with a faculty member, who aids them in their research projects. 

The requirements for being part of the program involve being a first-generation college student and being considered low-income by federal guidelines. The program is funded by the Department of Education. 

The auditorium filled up with more than 50 people, said program assistant Kim Whitney.

The conference opened with Program Director Lynn Curry giving an overview of the program and introducing the first presenter. 

The symposium had the scholars go up on stage and present what they are researching. They also covered the methods used to gather information, the results of their experiments, where they plan to go next and their works cited. After their presentations, they answered audience questions. 

Topics presented included how the media framed the Flint water crisis, the benefits of advocating midwifery in racially disproportionate communities and a genetic component related to the cause of autism. 

Shelby Township senior Jacob Bahry choose autism as the topic of his research because of his interests, collaborating with Shasta Sabo from the biology department.

“It involved both neuroscience and genetics,” he said. “It’s a good mix.” 

Grand Rapids junior Jessica Lahr said she had a great experience with her research. Her experiment involved having rats pull a lever several times for food, which released food with an increased number of pulls, until they met their breaking point. She worked with Mark Reilly from the psychology department for her experiment.

“I don’t know what I’ll find next, you never know with rats,” she said. 

Whitney and Curry were happy with how the event turned out, and excited to see how far the scholars had progressed, Curry said. After all 13 students presented, Curry thanked all who came and the faculty for providing time and resources.

Curry does wonder about the program’s future, citing a 2018 federal budget draft from March suggested that the McNair Scholars program, among other college programs, would be cut from the federal budget.  

“We do have funding for the next five years, but the Trump administration may be doing away with the program,” she said.

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