2023 Reed Summer Research Poster Session Showcases Student Work

By Griffin Turek; Photography by Ray Perry

On a warm Friday afternoon, on the shaded plaza outside the language houses, STEM students gathered to present summer research projects to curious peers and faculty. Students set up posters as passers-by began to gather. At this annual summer research poster session, Reed students in the sciences come together to present their findings from projects conducted throughout the summer. This year, over a hundred and twenty students came with posters in hand to the session, turning the plaza into a bustling exchange of research on the cutting edge of Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Math, Physics, and Psychology. 

Originally, the poster session was solely for the Biology department, but expanded over the years. Now, the fair features research from the mathematics and natural sciences division to economics, although the bulk of the research falls under the natural sciences. The subjects of research ranged from analysis of certain genes in African Cichlids to the chemical structure of compounds, even analyses of cultural effects on psychological phenomena. Admittedly, many advanced topics were on display, but the power of poster presentation is the ability to present a condensed summary of findings.

Nanati Safawo, a sophomore neuroscience major, conducted research on the development of certain neurons. Her research specifically examined two components of neurons, the extracellular matrix (ECM) and Concanavalin A (ConA), both collected from a subspecies of Drosophila, or fruit flies. By utilizing live cell imaging, Safawo could examine the development of neurons.

Students presented on summer research projects in Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Math, Physics, and Psychology.

Naia Marten, a senior pursuing an environmental studies major, had spent the summer examining the health of some twenty unusual trees. What she was searching for was Phytophthora Lateralis: a pathogen that causes root disease in Port-Orford Cedars, which eventually kills the trees. To discover the presence of the pathogen, Marten used techniques ranging from bark-stripping to baiting, a fascinating trick to expose pathogen presence. 

Junior Biochemistry major Paul-Pierre Boutet, talked about the importance of finding the shapes of the two drugs Rilpivirine and Cabotegravir. These drugs are currently being studied for their assistance in the treatment of HIV/AIDS. While the two drugs have become reproducible, the problem lies in how best to format the treatment composed of the pair. An effective treatment relies upon high solubility in order to easily enter the bloodstream.

The research here represents a small sample of this year’s research presentations, with a broad swath of topics not included. Next year, the summer poster session will come around again, as well as other departmental research presentations.

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