Community at MCLA

Students Ready for 15th Annual URC

(Above) Halie Smith ’18, and (below, from top to bottom) Allison Meehan ’17, Michael Friedman ’17, Rosy Gil Diaz ’18 and Elsa Mastico ’17

The campus is getting ready for the 15th Annual Undergraduate Research Conference (URC) on Thursday, April 20. During this all-day conference, from 8:45 a.m. to 5 p.m., more than 125 students will offer over 104 presentations on a wide variety of research projects – from posters and research papers to works of art, and much more.

Allison Meehan ’17, a double major in English literature and elementary education from North Adams, Mass., will participate in a discussion panel where she will share research from her paper, “Amabelle and Quentin: A Comparative Look at Past Traumas.”

“In this paper, I compared two characters from Global South novels that we read. I looked specifically at Quentin from Faulkner’s ‘The Sound and the Fury’ and Amabelle from
Danticat’s ‘The Farming of Bones,’and how each character dealt with traumatic events that occurred in their respective pasts,” Meehan explained.

Michael Friedman ’17 of Dalton, Mass., an environmental studies and biology major, will present a poster that is the result of a seven-month internship he served with the Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation.

“I found myself drawn to forest ecosystems dominated by the eastern hemlock, a common conifer in Massachusetts. I am particularly interested in plant science, ecology and invasive species,” Friedman said.  “My goal was to understand how these natural communities may be impacted by this invasive species and a changing climate, and to inform the organization of ways to best manage parcels of land where this forest type is common.”

Psychology major Rosy Gil Diaz ’18, originally from Santiago, Dominican Republic and now of Boston, Mass., will present a paper on “Crossing Borders: Immigration Narratives in the Trump Era,” which she and a partner prepared through research and narratives from immigrants.

“As an immigrant and a person of color I feel very strongly about these issues,” Diaz said. “I want people who may be indifferent or who don’t know the real effects of these issues to be aware of how it affects immigrants and other Americans, too.”

Also a psychology major, Elsa Mastico ’17 of Hanson, Mass., will present her paper, “The Neuroscience of Love,” which looks at emotional reactions in students when they are asked about passionate love and jealousy, which she measured with an EEG (electroencephalogram).

“The idea is that people who are more passionately in love may have a higher tendency to react strongly to thoughts about the person they are passionately in love with,” Mastico said. “The second part of my project is a widespread study looking at relationship satisfaction compared to jealousy and passionate love.”

By combining case neuroscience with social psychology, Mastico – who plans to pursue a Ph.D. in neuroscience – aims to show that different areas of psychology may be combined through a liberal arts experience.

Art major Halie Smith ’18 of Spencer, Mass., will present her sculpture, “The Holy Spirit,” which she created using a visual analogy.

“In the same way a tree grows toward the sun no matter which way it is turned, the Holy Spirit makes me grow closer to God no matter what my life faces,” Smith explained. “I carved the Hebrew letters for the Holy Spirit out of wood, and then glued them together to create this form.”

Over the years, undergraduate research has grown to become an integral part of the MCLA experience, according to Dr. Justin Golub, URC chair.

“Research is a great experience for students; it fosters their curiosity and interests, and helps them become critical thinkers. The opportunity to present their research allows students to shine, and showcase their skills,” Golub said.

Paper presentations and special sessions will take place in Bowman Hall, and posters will be displayed and presented in the Venable Hall Gymnasium. Special art exhibits will be displayed throughout the day in the Bowman Gallery and Murdock Hall room 208.

For more information, including descriptions of all projects and presentations, go to

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