IdeaFest, an annual showcase of graduate and undergraduate student research, was held on Wednesday and Thursday for its 25th year at USD.
Wednesday’s events included a poster session on the main and second floors of the Munster University Center where students posted their work for anyone interested to interact with and ask questions.
Jeff Beck, a graduate student studying basic biomedical sciences, conducted research on twin genetics.
“What we want to do is associate genetic information with that genotypic information that has been collected over time,” Beck said. “We’ve created a microarray which is able to assess the genetic differences between individuals.”
Beck said he’s interested in research because he gets to see how humans are directly impacted instead of using animal models to study human conditions.
“The biggest thing for me is the opportunity of being able to study human genetics,” Beck said. “It takes out the common argument that a lot of people have against science is using animal models to associate their studies with humans. By studying humans directly, we can directly translate our findings into human conditions.”
Sophomore health sciences major Jonni Buckman researched Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) because of a personal connection. She said she joined IdeaFest for her class on diseases.
“I did my research on SIDS because my grandma lost a baby to SIDS, and it’s a curiosity of mine because they still haven’t found a cause for it,” Buckman said. “I also chose it because I’m Native American, and Native American babies are more likely to have it happen to them than any other race.”
First-year Elena Freeman is triple-majoring in international studies, philosophy and French, and she chose to research commonalities in cross-cultural identity. Freeman conducted six interviews with completely different people for her study.
“Our main goal was just to find people who were different from each other with as little similarities as possible,” she said. “We asked very open-ended questions that had to do with identity. We wanted to see through their stories how their experiences were transferred into their identity, and we wanted to see if there were any common themes through all the interviews.”
Freeman found that openness was a common, positive trait as well as turning points and environment. She said she plans to make a documentary on the subject.
“We found that each one throughout their life was more open to the identities that they’ve had, and each saw that openness was a positive trait in their growth in their identities,” Freeman said. “They each had turning points in their life where they would find a new aspect of their identity that they wanted to be dominant. Depending on where these people were and where the story took place, they would describe their identities differently.”
Brennan Jordan, an Earth sciences associate professor, gave a lecture about Iceland’s unique geography, ecology and history as the keynote speaker in the MUC ballroom on Thursday.
Jordan’s research focused on the relationship between volcanoes and plate tectonics. Over the course of his career, Jordan has spent time in Iceland doing research.
Jordan teaches an Iceland Volcanology Field Camp course every summer, where he takes students from across the country to Iceland to study its unique geology and ecology.
“In 2012, I started to develop a Volcanology Field Camp,” Jordan said. “Geologists, as they near the completion of their undergraduate degrees, often do an intensive field course called a geology field camp, and I have taught quite a few of those… Including this year, I will have taken 134 students to Iceland over the years.”
Jordan’s lecture, titled “Iceland: From an Unsustainable Past to Sustainable Future,” focused on Iceland’s history of sustainability. He explained how earlier in its history Iceland didn’t have the sustainable practices it’s now famous for.
At one point, Jordan said, Iceland had up to 40 percent forest coverage, but deforestation has taken many of the trees. Now, Iceland has only about one percent forest coverage.
“Iceland, when you encounter it today, you see this stark tree free landscape that’s beautiful, but at the time that settlement occurred, it is estimated that 25 to 40 percent was covered by berch forest,” Jordan said. “Between that time and 1950, the forest dropped to as low as one percent or even half a percent.”
Since then, Iceland has adopted many sustainable practices, Jordan said. Now, Iceland makes almost all its power from geothermal and hydro-electric power.
“When people talk about Iceland as an example of a sustainable nation, energy is usually first and foremost on their minds,” Jordan said. “Nearly 100 percent of the electricity generation in Iceland is by renewable methods. It’s basically by hydro-electric power and geothermal power.”
Jordan ended the lecture with what he called a “reality check.” He tried to dispel common misconceptions about Iceland’s politics, history and culture.
“With the center-right government’s pretty pro-business perspective, the environment is pretty much constantly being threatened by new developments,” Jordan said. “In this sense, it’s not quite the politically progressive place we might think.”
By Morgan Matzen and Clay Conover