Even as students enter the time of year where they are practically living in Frost Library, they recently gathered there to share and discuss their theses and other projects at the third annual Amherst Explorations.
The daylong event offers a rare opportunity for students from a broad range of majors to share in one setting what they have been working on in the lab, classroom and community.
“There’s nothing more important than going and putting your ideas to work in the world, with an opportunity to think about the implications of what you’re doing,” said Amherst President Biddy Martin, introducing the event.
Some students and teams shared their projects via poster displays. These included findings from biology students who participated in the 2014 Interterm field trip to Monteverde, Costa Rica, where they studied tropical organisms such as bats, ants and butterflies.
- John Kim ’15, Kelvin Chen ’16 and Sean Rodriguez ’15 prepared a poster about the life lurking under rotting logs.
- Elizabeth Black ’16, Margaret Bogardus ’15 and Madeleine Lobrano ’15 presented findings about flower pollination.
Other projects explored
- geologic records of prehistoric climate change in Mexico
- protein folding
- the circadian clock
- plant defense mechanisms
In a TED-style series of lightning talks, students gave brief overviews of their thesis projects.
Coralie Pardo ’15, a Five College Digital Humanities Fellow, gave a presentation on a virtual-reality game that she is creating, geared at simulating what it is like to experience racism as a black person. Virtual interactions within the game “could be things like being followed in your neighborhood because somebody thinks you don’t belong, or being detained for buying something that’s too expensive,” she said. “Ideally the person who is playing the game will experience these things and take a step back and think … ‘When have I thought these things or done any of these things?’”
Student panels featured reports from fellowship programs such as the Lane Fellowships, which support arts projects informed by materials in the Amherst College Archives and Special Collections, and the Folger Fellowships, which involve intensive research at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.
Sophie Chung ’17, a managing news editor for The Student, did a project looking at printed news in 17th-century England. “It was really humbling to see this paper [in the Folger collection] that had survived,” the Folger fellow said.
Other panels shared tips and travails of the thesis process. Several speakers noted that one’s thesis research can be the start of something bigger. “The thesis doesn’t have to end when the due date ends,” said Gabriel Gonzalez ’15.
Gonzalez also spoke on a panel of students who assisted with “Life Is a Dream,” a course taught at the Hampshire County Jail and House of Correction as part of the Inside/Out Prison Exchange Program.
Missy Roser ’94, head of research and instruction at Frost Library, said she and her colleagues always enjoy learning about students’ work at Amherst Explorations. “This is one of our favorite days of the year on campus,” she said, “because we get to see what they’ve actually been doing writ large, and it’s amazing.”