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Charlotte Amalie
Wednesday, December 7, 2022
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UVI's Young Scientists Display Fruits Of Research

March 28, 2009 — Brains were on parade Saturday at the University of the Virgin Islands' Spring Research Symposium, as more than two dozen students displayed the results of research projects that covered the gamut from biomedicine to computers to mathematics and psychology and beyond.
And if the range of the projects was wide, the ground the students covered physically was equally impressive. Some of the projects were done in the territory. Through the Emerging Caribbean Science network, other students traveled across the U.S. to carry out their research.
Saturday's forum was held in the Great Hall's Northwest Wing at the university's St. Croix campus, where for two hours 31 young scientists displayed the results of their work, explaining it and answering questions from a large crowd of faculty, high school science instructors and students.
"It's a great opportunity" said UVI President LaVerne Ragster. "They come back more sophisticated and more ready to learn."
It also opens the world to students, letting them see the opportunities awaiting them if they pursue scientific careers, as many of them plan to do.
For Adriane Crooke and Joselyn Allen, the research involved trips to Howard University in Washington, D.C., and the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Md., to study how the pericardium (the elastic membrane surrounding the heart) functions. In their project, they actually studied the beating hearts of pigs under anesthesia.
A biology major at U.V.I., Crooke said that on graduation she's planning to pursue an advanced degree in biomedical research.
Understandably, this was nothing like the science fair at an elementary school. Hiba Mustafa tried gamely to explain her project to a reporter — a middle-aged man out of college for decades. The project was entitled "The Pyloric CPG Responds to Cholinergic Treatment of Higher Neural Centers in the Stomatogastric Nervous System (STNS) of Panulinus argus, the Caribbean Spiny Lobster."
It certainly wasn't her fault that it went completely over the reporter's head. He did understand at the end of her explanation that the project might have application in the treatment of Alzheimer's Disease, although he didn't quite catch why.
But that's the kind of science that was on display Saturday — even the projects that were easier to grasp, such as Tiffany Bernier's "Relative Abundance of Sea Turtles in the Bays of St. Thomas," or Andre Douglas's "Confidence Levels of Undergraduates Enrolled in Skills Mathematics Courses," were done with such scientific rigor and penetrating analysis that as the reporter moved from display to display, he had the disturbing sense that he could feel his IQ dropping, point by point, with every step.
Sarah Danaher explained her project, "Pattern Recognition Using Parsers: Applications in Computer Science and Beyond," and talked about how she would use this project to build a much more ambitious computer programming project next year. The reporter admitted he didn't understand a word — but acknowledged that wasn't from her lack of trying.
Ragster pointed out that the symposium was more than a chance for the students to show off their research and erudition. It is also valuable practice, she said. Through the school's Emerging Caribbean Scientists program, U.V.I. students have won awards when competing against students from hundreds of schools across the country. Howard Forbes, whose project "Influence of Red Mud and Stabilized Red Mud on Seed Germination and Plant Growth" was on display at the symposium, won a national competition last fall.
"If you can explain your research to a 12-year-old," Ragster said, looking at the crowd in the hall, "you can explain it to anyone."
Even to a reporter.
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