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Student Research Symposium Showcases Campus-Wide Fields of Study

Symposium celebrates the scholarly accomplishments of Montclair State’s graduate and undergraduate students

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Photo of Jacqueline Lawrence, left, talks with partners Emily Baeli and Holly Kobezak about their research on the mental health of first responders.
Jacqueline Lawrence, left, talks with partners Emily Baeli and Holly Kobezak about their research on the mental health of first responders.

From car accidents and fires to school shootings and disasters, Jacqueline Lawrence, a graduate student in Clinical Psychology, is heading a team of student researchers examining the healing of emotional scars suffered when first responders rush into tragedies.

“They know what they are getting into,” says Lawrence, a paramedic firefighter who works on campus as managing director of emergency medical services for University Police. But that doesn’t lessen the mental toll she says of the real-world research she presented at the Montclair State University Student Research Symposium.

With their posters forming rows of displays and formal oral presentations taking place throughout University Hall, the symposium on April 27 showcased the creative and scholarly accomplishments of graduate and undergraduate students at Montclair State.

The 12th annual Student Research Symposium was the largest held at the University, with 320 students showing how they are applying the challenges and techniques of microbiologists, sociologists, anthropologists, psychologists, accountants, musicians, filmmakers, journalists, teachers and public health specialists to a wide range of questions and problems.

The collaborations encouraged students to explore issues from multiple perspectives, with the symposium presenting a forum to share their projects to the broader academic community.

Students are tackling problems with multiple methodologies and multidisciplinary approaches, providing a rich perspective on a wide range of topics, everything from the economic benefits of marijuana legalization to mathematical models in cancer research. Oral presentations were organized around themes, including: Applications of Marketing and Sustainability; Language and Power; Gender, Economy and the Law; Educational Evaluation; and The Psychology of Race.

Robert Welch, a senior Political Science major with an Arabic Studies minor who is also a classically trained musician, looked at the connection between music, revolution and politics in “The Sounds of Revolution: Rethinking How We Hear Change.” Conflict in Egypt inspired him to write a full-fledged symphony, which led to the research. “I think it benefitted me greatly because it restored a lot of my previous drive in learning, and also pushed me to really go out of my comfort zone and ask questions that I previously would have been intimidated by,” Welch says.

During the poster sessions, students answered questions on their research, methods and conclusions. Lawrence, for example, shared the floor with students she met in Montclair State’s trauma and resiliency psychology lab. They have surveyed more than 600 first responders across the country, in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Central to the research is the question, “Are they better able to handle the situations and are effectively coping, or are they secretly having a lot of psychological/emotional issues that they’re not just reporting?” Lawrence says.

Some of this year’s research has opened students’ eyes to new career paths. That was the case for Victoria Vasquez, a junior Nutrition and Food Science major. She has been contributing to research that is examining healthy food barriers faced by low-income mothers. Focusing on farmers markets, Vasquez says she now sees opportunities for herself in community nutrition.

Joseph Mettle, a senior Jurisprudence, Law and Society major, was among the students making formal presentations. Mettle studied climate change, a topic he says he is passionate about, researching current weather trends and patterns in comparison to past centuries, and conducting scholarly literature research. “Climate change is real and of great concern to all of us around the globe,” he concludes in “Climate Change, Global Warming and the First Amendment.”

Such research based in arts, sciences and professional programs is a central component of Montclair State University’s mission. The State of New Jersey has officially designated Montclair State as a public research university, complementing the University’s national research doctoral classification.

“The Student Research Symposium definitely empowers our students to see the relevance of their work to the wider world,” says Jessica Brandt, associate director of student affairs, College of Humanities and Social Sciences.