Carnegie Mellon University
May 05, 2023

Poetry, Physics and Picnics

Mellon College of Science students present at Meeting of the Minds

By Heidi Opdyke

Jocelyn Duffy
  • Associate Dean for Marketing and Communication, MCS
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Carnegie Mellon's annual undergraduate research symposium "Meeting of the Minds" offers a way for the campus community to celebrate the creativity, innovation and collaboration that occurs between students and faculty throughout the year. Hundreds of students present posters, artwork, demonstrations and live performances on the first Wednesday in May at the Cohon University Center and other campus locations.

For Veronique Wright, a senior wrapping up a combined degree in biological sciences and psychology, she used the opportunity to write a poem honoring mothers in Morocco. Wright visited the country during the summer of 2022 through the support of the Jennings Family Brave Companions Fund where she volunteered at the Clinique La Capitale in the capital city of Rabat.

"After witnessing such a vulnerable moment, I had the privilege of listening to numerous stories from new mothers about traditional Moroccan birthing customs. These customs were so deeply enriching that I felt compelled to honor these women by sharing their experiences and dedicating a poem as a token of gratitude," she said. "While many babies are born in modern hospitals, which prioritize sterility, in the more traditional and rural areas of Morocco, new mothers are embraced by a network of maternal figures and midwives. They undergo a special ritual bath at a Hamam, a public bath, where they are massaged with oils and herbs. After the bath, the new mother is adorned with henna and golden jewelry and dressed like a new bride to welcome her baby."

The Jennings Fund, which provides students with support to travel to developing countries, is one of several opportunities that Carnegie Mellon provides for students to receive support to pursue research of all types. Other programs include the Small Undergraduate Research Grant (SURG), the International Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships, Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) and the Summer Undergraduate Research Apprenticeships.

Guotong Sun, a senior in physics, presented work he did under the guidance of his advisor Tina Kahniashvili in the summer of 2022 through a SURF award. Kahniashvili's work focuses on understanding the origin and evolution of magnetic fields and gravitational waves generated in the very early universe.

In his work, Sun looked at a possible scenario where the large scale extragalactic magnetic field (EGMF) is amplified from the seed fields sourced by the chiral anomaly in the early universe. This chiral magnetic effect, the generation of electric current along an external magnetic field caused by preferred handedness, leads to instability and turbulence in the primordial plasma and could explain the EGMF that detectors see today.

"I enjoy working on cosmology, and this gave me an opportunity to work with my advisor" he said.

Carnegie Mellon senior Benford Krummenacher wanted to capture the quintessential essence of a picnic as seen through the lens of media.

"In my sophomore year, I was doing a lot of artistic work surrounding general community events," said Krummenacher, who studies biological sciences and art through Carnegie Mellon's interdisciplinary BXA Intercollege Degree program. "I landed on picnics for my BXA seminar capstone because they are fun and common enough of a thing to do."

They used a deep analysis of Yogi Bear comics, cartoons and other media.

"Since I do computational biology research with the Mohimani Lab, I have a tendency to want to work with as much data as I can," they said. "So, I first collected all of the frames depicting picnics in Yogi Bear comics from the two main series and documented what objects occur in each."

Krummenacher looked at the frequency, color and relationships of objects and found a hierarchy where some objects are core to picnics and others are accessories. The most common objects in picnic scenes include baskets, blankets, bread, apples and cakes.

"The project is unfinished, but I am narrowing in on essential features of picnics, including the objects and some of their colors," they said.

Work by students in the Mellon College of Science this year covered a broad spectrum of topics. Check out a few of the other projects that were presented this year:

Isabel Brum
Isabel Brum

A philosophy class changed Isabel Brum's perception of public health. The senior studying cognitive neuroscience with an additional major in ethics, history and public policy spent last summer at a hospital in Kisumu, Kenya. Read more

Aramchan "Chamy" Lee

Sophomore Aramchan "Chamy" Lee and other researchers in the Zhao Biophotonics Lab are developing a set of protocols to enable the nanoscale visualization of the Candida albicans, a common human fungal pathogen, in fixed clinical tissues. Read more

0830_undergrad-research-jordan_lr.jpgEmily Jordan

Junior Emily Jordan uses computational tools to investigate how risk and reward mechanisms affect addiction outcomes. Read more

Ruby Redlich

Junior Ruby Redlich uses computational tools to investigate genetic markers that influence sleep in mammals. Read more

Peter Sauer
Peter Sauer

Peter Sauer is offering a technological take on a biological problem. The senior is helping researchers predict how complex structures made of DNA form at the smallest scales. Read more

Minerva Schafer

Sophomore Minerva Schafer is using chemistry to create a way to clean up antibiotics from waterways. Read more

Ali Shakir

Ali Shakir is working to correct an error in how cosmologists measure intrinsic galaxy alignments. Read more

Chloe Sinagra
Chloe Sinagra

A Modern Language course spurred junior Chloe Sinagra to author a psycholinguistics article. Read more

Martha Spletzer and Jarrod Paris
Martha Spletzer

Martha Spletzer, chemistry is all about the reaction. A member of the Guo Group, Spletzer studies an enzyme, known as TqaL, which contains iron ions. Read more

Veronique Wright
Veronique Wright

Volunteering at the Clinique La Capitale in Rabat, Morocco, brought greater clarity to Veronique Wright's future. Read more

Tony Yu

For Carnegie Mellon University junior Tony Yu, problem solving is logical. Read more