Grad, professional students present research while honing communication skills during annual event

By Susan Killenberg McGinn
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Sid Hastings/WUSTL Photos

Anna Hood (right), a Chancellor’s Graduate Fellow in psychology in Arts & Sciences, explains her work to judge Taryn Marashi, a graduate student in Islamic studies, also in Arts & Sciences. Hood’s research examines Phenylketonuria (PKU), a metabolic genetic disorder, and how variability (fluctuations) in Phenylalanine (Phe), an essential amino acid, predicts lower intelligence and poorer executive abilities in children with PKU.

With topics ranging from African-American women survivors of breast cancer to transgender experiences, more than 55 graduate and professional students from all Washington University in St. Louis disciplines participated in the 19th Annual Graduate Student Research Symposium, held Feb. 22 in Whitaker Hall.

The event provides graduate and professional students the opportunity to present their work to a broad audience of students, faculty and community members from diverse backgrounds, while allowing them to practice and hone their communication skills.

The Graduate Student Senate (GSS) holds the event in collaboration with the 
Association of Graduate Engineering Students and the Graduate Professional Council. The Graduate School of Arts & Sciences lends extensive support.

“The ability to describe one’s work to a variety of people is a valuable and critical skill needed to succeed in any academic or professional discipline,” said Jeff Pobst, GSS co-president and a doctoral candidate in physics in Arts & Sciences.

He and GSS co-president Shankar Parajuli said the symposium also creates a unique forum for dialogue among students and faculty from across the university by encouraging discussion, networking, and interdisciplinary collaboration and communication about ongoing research.

Monetary prizes were awarded to the top three presenters in each of five categories — humanities, sciences, social sciences, engineering and professional programs. For a list of the winning research projects, visit here.

Richard J. Smith, PhD, dean of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, Parajuli and Pobst were among those speaking during the awards ceremony that followed the two-hour poster presentations.

Mark Conradi, PhD, a physics professor and a WUSTL alumnus, was the guest speaker.

GSS partnered with WUSTL's Speaking Studio, a service of The Writing Center, to offer workshops in preparation for the symposium.

Held Jan. 23 in the Liberman Graduate Center, the workshops focused on writing an abstract, presenting one’s research to a broad academic audience and creating a compelling research poster.

All three event co-sponsors are celebrating their 20th anniversaries this academic year. GSS commemorated its milestone by debuting a new GSS logo at the symposium after holding a university-wide logo contest.

Chen Po-Jung, a graduate student studying architecture and urban design, won for his logo design. Parajuli and Pobst said the research symposium has become a model for similar events at colleges and universities across the country.

"Events such as this become particularly important as we enter a new world of data and expertise sharing between what we traditionally called ‘different backgrounds,’” said Parajuli, a doctoral candidate in the Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences at the Medical Campus working in cell biology and biochemistry.

“As we are discovering, one cannot get a complete grasp of the world by only being an expert in one field. One field's expertise needs that of the other.”

Susan Killenberg McGinn
Executive Director of University News Service
(314) 935-5254; (314) 603-6008 (cell)