A student presents her poster at the Undergraduate Conference.
Liz Meador ‘20, physics and astronomy, presents her research on galaxy distribution during the 2019 Undergraduate Conference. (Photo by Leo Corrales '21)

Written by

Whitman College's annual Undergraduate Conference is bringing a variety of student-led and produced research to the Whitman community on Tuesday, April 9, 2019. In its 21st year, the conference has grown to a record 69 students presenting 57 posters in Cordiner Hall, three unique sessions of panels and music performances by the Chamber Ensemble, and Jazz Ensembles I and II.

Organized by the Office of Fellowships and Grants, the Undergraduate Conference gives students an opportunity to present research from classes, senior theses, and projects conducted during study abroad experiences and during summer internships.

Keith Raether, director of Whitman's Office of Fellowships and Grants, has overseen the Undergraduate Conference for many years and continues to be amazed by the participants year after year.

"Every year I'm impressed by the range of content that the Undergraduate Conference delivers. The research is robust and diverse; it stretches across all disciplines," Raether said. "This year is noteworthy for a record number of posters and poster presenters, which attests to the vigor of the sciences at Whitman."

Many of the presenters are seniors who have eagerly taken the opportunity to present their thesis prior to upcoming departmental exams. Mickey Shin '19 is excited about the opportunity the Undergraduate Conference offers to practice her rhetoric thesis defense and also the unique opportunity to present for and alongside her peers.

"My advisor has encouraged us to use the undergrad conference as practice for our senior exams," she said. "I am looking forward to the conference because it pushes me to think about how I make my thesis accessible to people who are not rhetoric scholars."

Shin will give her presentation, "Remembering 9/11 Through News Design: Journalism, Visual Rhetoric and Collective Memory on National Trauma," at 11:15 a.m. in Olin 138 during Session 2's Race, Hate and Trauma panel. Her work is sponsored by Matthew Bost, assistant professor of rhetoric studies.

"I'm really interested in newspapers and newspaper design, so I analyzed the front pages of five papers from the day after 9/11 and from 10 years later to see what our perception of terrorism looks like and how it has changed over time. I draw larger political implications about the subjectivity and objectivity of newspapers and journalism," said Shin, who is double majoring in rhetoric and philosophy and is the editor-in-chief of Whitman's student paper, The Wire.

Many students will be presenting work funded by Whitman grant programs, outside agencies, scholarships or endowments. Bassel Jamali '19 received a grant from Whitman's Louis B. Perry Summer Student-Faculty Research Endowment for his history research with Associate Professor Elyse Semerdjian, titled "Stephen B.L. Penrose Jr. and Palestinian Refugees." Jamali will present at 9:45 a.m. in Reid G02, during the History, Identity and Place panel in Session 1. The research that Jamali worked on over the summer is part of his thesis research, which he is currently completing for honors.

"I've always been interested in Middle East history, so it was kind of a given that Professor Semerdjian would be my advisor," he said. "She's the one that knew about the archives and directed me to Penrose's extensive papers about the Palestinian refugees."

Jamali's history thesis research is based on the many papers and letters of Stephen B.L. Penrose Jr., the son of Whitman President Stephen Penrose. The younger Penrose was a staunch advocate for Palestinian refugees.

"Penrose Jr. anticipated some of the different arguments that have come up from the beginning of 1948 and in 1967, which was another big war between Israel and its neighbors. Penrose very early recognized that you are not going to have peace without solving the problems of the Palestinian refugees," Jamali said.

Jamali is excited for the opportunity to present at the undergraduate conference, it will be his first time presenting his research to an audience. Jamali will also appear as part of the Jazz Ensemble II, which will perform in the Reid Coffeehouse from 4:15-5 p.m.

Many students exemplify the interdisciplinary nature of their education at Whitman through their participation in multiple facets of the conference. Ethan Raffman '20 is presenting both chemistry and history research. His history presentation, "The Magna Mater: (Re)defining Roman Divinity," is based on a research project for his Historical Methodologies, taught by Associate Professor Nina Lerman. His faculty sponsor for the presentation is Assistant Professor Sarah Davies. He's participating on the Myth, Canon and Meaning panel in the Kimball Theatre during Session 1. Raffman's presentation will begin at 9:15 a.m.

He'll present his chemistry work during the Undergraduate Conference's poster session, which runs from 1-3 p.m. in Cordiner Hall. The presentation is titled "Palladium-Catalyzed Alkene Addition to Carboranes," and focuses on his thesis research with Associate Professor Mark Juhasz.

"There are a lot of similarities in how to do research for the two areas of study. A lot of preparing for a project is figuring out what people have done in the past and what is a viable potential for the project's outcome," Raffman said.

The conference runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 9 at various locations across campus. You can download the full program and see the schedule of presenters on the Undergraduate Conference website.

A full audience watches Mickey Shin '19 (philosophy, rhetoric studies) present during the 2019 Undergraduate Conference at Whitman College. (Photo by Leo Corrales '21)

Ethan Raffman '20 (history, chemistry) presents about ancient Greece and Rome in Kimball Theatre during the 2019 Undergraduate Conference. (Photo by Leo Corrales '21)

Bassel Jamali '19 (History) presents his findings on Stephen B.L Penrose Jr. and the Case of the Palestinian Refugees in Reid G02 during the 2019 Undergraduate Conference at Whitman College. (Photo by Leo Corrales '21)