Binghamton University held its annual weeklong Research Days celebration to highlight the research and scholarships students have worked on throughout the year.
From April 24-28, the University hosted a diverse array of speeches, exhibitions and presentations that highlighted research from an academically diverse set of students. Ranging from ecological art exhibitions to a competition where graduate students presented their theses in three minutes or less, the events showcased many different forms of research conducted at BU.
To mark the beginning of Research Days, BU invited Dr. Nii Addy, a neuroscientist and associate professor of psychiatry at Yale University, to give the keynote address. Rachel Coker, the chair of this year’s Research Days planning committee and the director of research advancement at BU, explained why Addy was chosen for the speech.
“He does interesting work at the intersection of neuroscience, mental well-being and faith,” Coker wrote in an email. “I think his ideas about resilience and about how to re-engage with our colleagues and friends at this point in [COVID-19] are insightful and helpful to hear.”
Addy spoke in Old Union Hall in the University Union on the evening of April 24. In his keynote address, titled “Living Your Best Life,” Addy began by acknowledging that the end of the school year can provoke a wide variety of sentiments among students, ranging from feelings of calmness over the conclusion of a semester to anxiety over finals and other schoolwork. Addy then proceeded to describe the role of the prefrontal cortex in the brain, which regulates emotional responses and perception.
To better control emotion, Addy emphasized the importance of self-care during times of unease.
“I think it’s important to acknowledge the many different ways that we can engage our prefrontal cortex during times of uncertainty,” Addy said. “You’ve probably heard a lot of people talk about things like mindfulness, even things like meditation and prayer. There [are] a lot of interesting studies showing how [these practices] engage our prefrontal cortex and can help us regulate our emotions during times of uncertainty.”
Addy also talked extensively about the importance of community and perceiving yourself as a member of a group. He cited studies demonstrating how levels of oxytocin, an important biological hormone that promotes feelings of affection and trust between individual humans, increase in the brain as a result of engaging in activities with others to pursue a common goal.
“Oxytocin levels rise among members of a team, especially in teams that have a common goal such as athletic teams,” Addy said. “So again, this is the biology of how being in community actually impacts our brains and engages those parts of the brain important for reward. It’s not good for us to be in isolation, and there’s a lot of biology that shows this.”
After numerous presentations and other events during the week, Research Days concluded on Friday with Student Poster Sessions. Held in both the Mandela Room and Old Union Hall, the poster sessions allowed undergraduate students from a variety of majors to present their research.
The research presented by undergraduate students ranged from a variety of disciplinary fields, from the natural sciences to the social sciences. Teddy D’Angelo, a freshman majoring in history, showcased his research concerning the efforts of the animal agriculture industry to shield the public from the negative environmental consequences of consuming meat. D’Angelo spoke about the chance to present his findings at Research Days.
“It was a great experience,” D’Angelo said. “It was a really cool opportunity as a freshman to immediately come in and begin doing my own research. I came up with this project on my own, with insight from my professor, and it was really cool to be able to do that. It sets me up for the rest of my time here where I can further do my own research.”
Claire Goldstein, a junior majoring in psychology, presented her work alongside fellow peers from the Human Sexualities Laboratory here on campus concerning shifts in the self-identified sexual orientation in non-exclusively heterosexual women. She described the benefit of being able to participate in research here on campus.
“I think it’s a valuable experience for undergraduate students to get involved in things that have an impact on the real world, as opposed to just working in a classroom environment where it’s constructed,” Goldstein said. “I think it’s important to do research about what’s going on in the world.”