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Students Present at Research Symposium

Rachel Klaski had a bad case of presentation anxiety when she arrived at Keene State. But the junior environmental studies/biology major from nearby Chesterfield, NH, found a remedy for her problem in the labs at the College’s Putnam Science Center.

“Science doesn’t always go as planned,” she said. “You have to learn to problem-solve and find out what’s going on, and I also gained a lot of confidence in myself through my work at school. Now I can speak in front of a crowd and I really enjoy it.”

Klaski was one of four students selected to present at the fifth annual Student Research Symposium in March. Presented by the Chemistry Lyceum, the event provides students an opportunity to talk about their research. “A lot of times we focus on what the department faculty are doing and have outside speakers come in, so it’s nice to see what the students are working on,” said Heather MacLennan, a junior from Hollis, NH, and the president of the Lyceum.

While Klaski spoke about her research investigating the health impacts of biodiesel fuel on humans, Elizabeth McGurk and Evan Dunkley, both junior chemistry majors, presented their relevant research. McGurk, who is from New Ipswich, NH, is looking at ways to prevent cholera infection, while Dunkley, from Hinsdale, NH, is researching methods to kill breast cancer cells. He said his research really hits home with him because his mother had breast cancer. Katie Kiley also spoke at the Symposium. The junior biology major from Scituate, RI, is trying to get a greater understanding of a growing problem in saltwater habitats where shellfish are farmed. Klaski, McGurk, and Dunkley were also recent recipients of the ISURF awards from NH INBRE, a sponsored collaborative network of two-year and four-year colleges in the State of New Hampshire.

In addition to sharing information with their peers, the presenters used the event to prepare for the Academic Excellence Conference. Associate Professor of Chemistry Dr. Jim Kraly says the symposium will also help the students once they graduate.

“The skills they are picking up with their research projects are directly transferable to graduate programs,” he said. “There are statistics out there that suggest there’s a disproportionate number of grad students from programs like Keene State that are liberal arts colleges that involve students with research at an early level. You would expect there would be a greater number of students from large research programs, but there are more students from places like ours, because they’ve had those experiences and skills that put them in a place to do well.”

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