Summer research creates buzz on campus

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, but no one said anything about this to the dedicated group of Puget Sound students who spent their summer doing research. Many traveled across the world to complete their studies while others were able to work at Puget Sound or even from their own homes. Regardless of the location, these students were able to explore various topics and delve deeper into the mysteries and controversies that arose during their summer research.

It’s hard to imagine what it might be like to visit a third-world country, but Daniel Parecki didn’t have to imagine. During his summer, he traveled to India in order to study the healthcare system.

After touring the country for a few days, he finally arrived in Dharamsala. From then on, he began his research by visiting a local hospital, talking with doctors and patients alike, and going to see a medical college. Through his research, he was able to discover the problems plaguing the health care system in India and how far behind it is compared to the West. Research in a foreign country is never without its distractions and quirks—Parecki met some interesting people in the mountains who raised sheep and also witnessed such sights as a cow resting in a heap of garbage. It is safe to say that it was an experience he will not soon forget.

The classic line “Remember, remember, the fifth of November,” from “V for Vendetta” is brought to mind when hearing about Jessica Spevak’s research topic. Spevak spent her summer investigating the complexities that followed the assassination attempt of King James I, whether the country was truly united against the Catholic populace during that time and how the English developed their national identity.

She examined how the English population perceived the event and compared it to how it is perceived today. Her studies led her to ASU and she was able to access some of the most interesting and detailed information regarding England during the rule of King James I.

Emotion pervades the human experience every day and yet we hardly seem to analyze exactly what we see when we look at a person’s face, at least consciously. During the summer, Madeline Werhane set up a complex series of tests that explored how neurons in the human brain recognize emotions. She asked Puget Sound students to participate in her study.

Using a series of videos and an electroencephalogram, she and another student were able to measure the brain activity of the participating students. They then analyzed how those students were able to match emotions and faces. Although not included in her presentation, she said there was more research to be done with mimicry and how a person’s ability to match emotions would be affected if they were not allowed to mimic that emotion. This in-depth study will take Werhane far beyond her research from the summer.

As for Preston Van Buren, his interest in bees began long before he decided to use them in his summer research. From the moment in high school when a bee landed on his arm, he has since become the vice president of the beekeeping club at Puget Sound and used the black-and-yellow insects to study whether they would be able to discriminate between male and female mice urine.

Despite flighty complications which included a rogue bee and a trip to the hospital after being stung, Van Buren was satisfied with his project. The implications of his research are fascinating and could even “bee” used for military operations, such as training bees to detect mines in a minefield.

These students are only a fraction of those who gave up their summer for the universal thirst for knowledge that most college students feel during the school year. The work they have done in this case has not made them dull, but instead has enhanced their learning experience and allowed them to explore places and subjects that are meaningful. In many ways, their hard work was also their play.