Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 46
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
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Work by Princeton Grad Students and Staff Highlights Record Research Symposium

Ellen Gilbert

About 150 people attended the fourth annual Princeton Research Symposium (PRS) at the Friend Center last Saturday, marking a record number for the four-year-old event where Princeton graduate students and research staff discuss their current work, through poster presentations and talks, with the University community and the general public.

“Based on our sign-in sheets, we had an even 50-50 mix of University and area community members,” reported organizing committee co-chair Shin-Yi Lin, a graduate student in the Department of Molecular Biology. “We are so pleased that the PRS has provided such a great opportunity for Princeton researchers to discuss their cutting-edge research with each other and the general public. Based on the feedback forms, there is great enthusiasm and interest from all parties in continuing to expand the PRS.”

Visiting graduate student in ecology and evolutionary biology Sepidah Bazazi received this year’s $175 first place prize poster presentation award for her work on “Collective animal behaviour,” a study of the cannibalistic interactions among migrating desert locusts. The second place winner, ecology and evolutionary biology research staff member Alessandro Tavoni, won $100 for his work on “The role of fairness motives and spatial considerations in explaining departures from Nash equilibrium: stationary and evolutionary lessons from 2X2 games.” History graduate student Jack Tannous was awarded the $75 third place prize for his representation of his dissertation, “On the trail of La Syrie Triligue: Jacob of Edessa and his circle,” which focused on the role of the monastery named Qennshre in understanding the death of the ancient world and the birth of Islam in the seventh century.

Among the “honorable mention” winners at the event was fifth year chemistry graduate student Courtney McQueen, whose poster describing her research on “Host-Pathogen Interactions: the Effects of Siderophores on Macrophage Cellular Metabolism” reflected the kind of sophisticated research and social consciousness that characterized much of the work on display. Ms. McQueen is an NSF Graduate Research Fellow and winner of several research and teaching awards. Her work focuses on treating tuberculosis, which affects over two billion people world-wide. “The statistics are shocking,” she observed, and while the course of treatment suggested by her work is difficult (six to twelve months of a relatively expensive medicine), there has been no new treatment for the disease since 1967.

Assistant Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs Daniel Oppenheimer delivered the day’s opening remarks. The keynote address, “From Butterfly Wing Segments to Cancer: Discovery of the New Cancer Drug Alimta,” was delivered by Edward C. Taylor, A. Barton Hepburn Professor of Organic Chemistry, Emeritus. Sponsors of the event included the Graduate School; the Association for Princeton Graduate Alumni; the Pace Center; the McGraw Center,; the Graduate Student Government Events Board; and the Graduate Alumni Relations Committee of the Alumni Council.

Summing up the symposium, Mr. Lin observed that “it’s a great opportunity to make connections across disciplines and foster better understanding about academic research in the wider Princeton community.” Future symposia will continue to be free and open to the public.

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