April 17, 2013

Rawlings Scholars Present Final Research Projects

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As the culmination of their research at Cornell, 49 seniors presented projects with topics ranging from pollination to “prep” fashion at the Rawlings Cornell Presidential Research Scholars Senior Expo Wednesday.

“Students join the program to be a part of a community of scholars interested in research. We encourage significant interaction between undergraduate researchers and faculty, and we also fund this faculty-mentored research,” said Kristin Ramsay ’88, coordinator of the Rawlings Scholar program.

Steven Yamada ’13 presented the results of his research about increasing the rate of photosynthesis in plants through partial defoliation, which involves removing a fraction of a plant’s leaves. His research suggests that this process can actually increase a plant’s photosynthetic efficiency, according to Yamada.

“We’re trying to identify the genes involved in this process in order to produce plants with higher basal rates of photosynthesis, and therefore increasing yield, which is a big issue in the world right now,” Yamada said.

Ashley Tse ’13 said she used her background as an industrial and labor relations major to analyze the worker policies at Disney World, where she previously interned.

“I believe that we can attribute some of the success of the corporate culture of Disney to its emphasis on employee safety, a key factor which is often overlooked because it isn’t a concept often thought of when you hear the name ‘Disney,’” Tse said.

Michael Commesso ’13 examined the role physical education plays in dietary habits and depression by having students in both active and relatively inactive physical education classes fill out questionnaires.

“Our results have been an advertisement for the importance of P.E. classes. The links we found between more active classes and lower rates of depression show that Cornell’s P.E. requirements should remain intact,” Commesso said.

While presenting their research, several of the students expressed their gratitude for the Rawlings Scholars program.

“Being involved in the program gave me the extra push to be involved from the beginning and allowed me to develop my research through to my senior year, [and] all the connections and faculty research which helped me to research what I was interested in,” Tse said.

Student attendees at the event expressed interest in the diversity of the research presented, as well as the program itself.

“It’s impressive to see the diversity of research that’s being presented here, and to see how involved the professors are in supporting student research,” Kristen Holl ’15 said.

Other attendees felt that seeing the research presented by the seniors left them inspired to further their own research.

“As a freshman, it’s cool to think that in four years, it might be me presenting my research here,” Yogisha Dixit ’16 said.

Original Author: Christopher Yates