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Science and Society at IPFW

Science and Society at IPFW Event Highlights Student and Faculty Research

by Sean Godfroy, COAS Intern


Students and faculty have many opportunities to present their research, but often only to people within specific academic circles. At IPFW, however, the Science and Society at IPFW (SASI) event allows students and faculty to share research, scholarship, and creative endeavors with people from across campus and our community. Over sixty student and faculty poster presentations and interactive projects were set up at the second annual SASI event on November 14th. For the students and community members who attended, many as part of IPFW's fall Campus Visit Day, these researchers and presenters helped introduce them to new ideas and advances in their fields of study.

For students, especially those considering graduate school, research and research presentation opportunities are vital experiences. In his "Laser Physics Is Awesome" poster, Christopher Watkins (physics) showed how he developed non-toxic and easily disposable components for dye lasers, which previously used a carcinogenic liquid dye. Watkins found a way to solidify the liquid dye and cut it into disks. To use the solid dye, though, Watkins needed a device that could rotate the disc without vibrating, which would ruin the output. Watkins explained, “I had to come up with an idea to move this [disc] without touching it, and what’s more fun than magnets? So I’m creating a magnetic trough so that this basically is floating in space (kind of like I’m a Jedi using the force or something).” When complete the device could make dye lasers that are more efficient and use easily disposable components.

Many of the posters presented at SASI were the result of interdisciplinary cooperation between faculty and students. Hannah Mazri, a nursing major, worked with engineering major Brittany Robinson in Associate Professor Steven Stevenson’s chemistry lab. Researchers at another campus needed a molecule with as many carbons on the outside as possible. Such molecules can bind more external molecules together and are used in MRI contrasting agents to allow for smaller injections of agents that move through the body more quickly and provide clearer imaging. Utilizing specialized equipment, the IPFW team developed and tested a number of compounds until they found the specific structures the researchers needed.

SASI PictureCOAS faculty members also presented at the event. Associate Professor Suzanne LaVere (history) shared her analysis of translated medieval texts. LaVere had facsimiles of commentaries on the Song of Songs from the Bible from 12th and 13th century manuscripts that she had translated from Latin to English. The manuscripts originated in countries such as Spain, France, and Austria, and although they addressed similar topics, the texts contained major differences in style and content. In all, LaVere translated about 25 manuscripts from Latin to English and analyzed the rhetorical differences among them for her presentation.

Associate Professor of English and Linguistics Damian Fleming’s presentation “Hebrew Alphabets in Medieval Manuscripts” concerned the lack of knowledge about the Hebrew language in 8th through 13th century Europe. Many Christian writings included Hebrew alphabets that were very inaccurate, while others were surprisingly close despite the lack of a significant Hebrew population. To learn more about Fleming's research on Hebrew in medieval manuscripts, see this article from Fort Wayne's Journal Gazette.

Fleming and LeVere displayed several physical examples of medieval texts and parchment for visitors to touch and interact with. At SASI, they worked together to educate attendees about medieval manuscripts and the significance of their research. They also presented this work at the Portal to the Public event the following day at Science Central.

A number of the presentations were interactive, and everyone was encouraged to touch and play with them. Biology graduate student Andrea Myers worked with Jordan Marshall, assistant professor of biology, on a research project mapping, cataloguing, and reorganizing Indiana’s forests. Their display included a large map of Allen County and a large collection of wooden blocks that the duo used to demonstrate their goal of reorganizing and maximizing the distribution of forested areas. Biology graduate students Areli Gutierrez and Sasha Tetzlaff represented IPFW's Environmental Resource Center (ERC) and brought in a recently rescued ball python for visitors to pet. Their goal was both to promote the ERC’s work and offer a new perspective on animals that many see as scary or dangerous.

Events like SASI bring established and budding academics from different fields together, while simultaneously allowing researchers to share their enthusiasm for a subject with the community. SASI offers attendees a glimpse at the research done at IPFW, and by increasing community involvement, SASI can inspire potential students or generate interest in fields of study. For more information on SASI, future events, or how to become involved, contact Ryan Yoder at