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Quest 2015 To Showcase Student, Faculty Scholarship, Creativity

OSWEGO — SUNY Oswego’s Quest 2015 will celebrate student and faculty scholarship and creativity on April 15 with scores of research presentations and exhibitions from across campus.

SUNY Oswego senior biology major Calee Wilson swabs the foot of a frog specimen for cells, to try to pinpoint, to the year if possible, when a sometimes-fatal amphibian skin fungus first made its way to Central New York. Wilson has worked closely with biological sciences faculty member Sofia Windstam on the project for Wilson's senior honors thesis and her presentation at Quest on April 15, the college's daylong celebration of student and faculty scholarship and creativity.
SUNY Oswego senior biology major Calee Wilson swabs the foot of a frog specimen for cells, to try to pinpoint, to the year if possible, when a sometimes-fatal amphibian skin fungus first made its way to Central New York. Wilson has worked closely with biological sciences faculty member Sofia Windstam on the project for Wilson’s senior honors thesis and her presentation at Quest on April 15, the college’s daylong celebration of student and faculty scholarship and creativity.

For the past 35 years, the college has welcomed public attendance at the daylong conference.

Presentations, demonstrations, scholarly posters and artwork exhibitions are free, and will take place in the Marano Campus Center and the nearby Richard S. Shineman Center for Science, Engineering and Innovation.

Parking on campus that day is free.

The inaugural conference, titled “Quest ’80,” was organized by then-faculty research committee chair Helen Daly and featured relatively few student presenters compared with faculty scholars.

This year’s symposium follows the long-developing trend of showcasing many student-driven, faculty-mentored research and creative projects at SUNY Oswego.

Frog fungus

Senior biology major Calee Wilson of Baldwinsville, for example, has pursued her ultimate goal to become a veterinarian by participating for three years in field and laboratory research with biological sciences faculty members Jennifer Olori and Sofia Windstam. Wilson’s senior honors thesis and Quest project, “Local Museum Specimen Screening for the Arrival of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in Central New York,” led her to test 174 frogs and salamanders from collections in Oswego and Albany.

Wilson’s research aims to narrow down to a year or group of years when the amphibian skin fungus known as “Bd” for short first arrived in Central New York.

The fungus, which can suffocate amphibians, has been responsible for substantial die-offs among some species in other parts of the country, though research at the college’s Rice Creek Field Station has not, to date, established it as a species-killer here.

“It’s very important to understand when Bd arrived in Central New York to correlate with population decreases in species of amphibians,” Wilson said.

To confirm the presence of Bd in specimens from a nine-county region of Central New York, dating back to 1903, Wilson swabs a foot of each one, picking up cells to isolate for a DNA segment that is telltale for Bd.

A chemistry minor, Wilson puts the samples in a reagent mixture, copies the DNA using polymerase chain reaction and analyzes the DNA using gel electrophoresis.

She focuses on specimens from Rice Creek’s teaching collection and the amphibian collection of the State Museum in Albany.

Working with Windstam on this project and with Olori on field research involving whitetail deer’s destruction of amphibian habitat has taught Wilson a great deal about scientifically analyzing real-world animal issues — lessons that will be of great value in her career, she said.

“I’ve grown a lot in three years,” said Wilson, who funded her research with the help of a Rice Creek Associates small grant and a SUNY Oswego Scholarly and Creative Activities grant.

Assisting the aging

Depression in aging adults can make the closing years of life a misery, so Brittni Switser, a human development major and gerontology and biocultural anthropology minor, chose to conduct a study on life review, a systematic and structured process for recalling events and memories to help older adults accept life choices and come to see the positive impact they have had — can still have — on others.

Switser, a senior who works as a program associate at Menorah Park’s Terrace Level dementia and Alzheimer’s unit in Syracuse, will offer a poster presentation that describes her experience with five residents of a different Syracuse-area independent living facility.

The core of her work for this, her senior honors thesis and capstone, has been meeting with the adults eight times each for a half-hour at a time over a six-week period, then analyzing the interviews for patterns in their responses about eight major life stages, focusing on the caregiving and wisdom stages of later years.

“Each person and their family is different,” Switser said. “To understand that your loved one is still an individual with needs, abilities, opportunities and challenges is essential. Try to help them meet those challenges and move forward as a family. A life review can help.”

Switser has worked closely on the research, titled “The Life Review Process in an Elderly Depressed Population,” with human development chair and gerontology coordinator Laura Hess Brown. “Dr. Brown is the best,” Switser said. “The past three years, she has been such a generous adviser. She has challenged me in ways I wouldn’t ever have thought to challenge myself.”

Sound sculpting

Max Sokolovsky, a senior in linguistics with an audio design and production minor, has worked with music faculty member Paul Leary on a presentation and demonstration titled “Exploring Data Flow in Computer-Created Music.”

With each using a laptop, they will cooperatively exchange data bits generated by a visual programming language named Max/MSP, planning to create a musical piece on the spot for a Quest audience.

“The software allows you to connect objects, visually, to functions that use math calculations,” said Sokolovsky, who is exploring a change in major to computer science. “Instrumental sounds are generated on the fly and you can manipulate them. Noise, rhythm, timbre, volume, pitch, distortion — you sculpt the sounds.”

Leary, a composer and arranger, has been using Max/MSP for a long time. Sokolovsky, who moved to Oswego from Russia six years ago, acknowledges he does not play a musical instrument, but became intrigued with the data-flow concept.

“Paul and I learn from each other all the time,” Sokolovsky said. “At this point, though, it’s a matter of efficiency and experience. Where I might use 20 modules to generate a particular sound, he might use three.”

More information about Quest 2015, including a complete schedule, will be forthcoming soon at oswego.edu/quest