Seven different undergraduate students shared their experiences on Monday night in the latest installment of BC Talks. Modeled off of the popular TED Talks, the BC Talks undergraduate lecture series aims to present a diverse selection of students together to speak in a forum intended to encourage students to share their research and passions outside of the classroom.
Run by Education for Students by Students since 2011, BCTalks has adopted the same principles as TED Talks, bringing students from a diverse educational background to present to their peers on their research and experiences.
The fall installment of BCTalks brought seven students to speak on topics ranging from optimism, to the effects that electronic cigarettes have on a body, to spirituality’s never- ending journey. Kaylyn Wiese, CSOM ’18, was unable to present due to an illness.
Alis Dicpinigaitis, A&S ’17, and Andrew Hawkins, A&S ’16, presented their scientific research. Dicpinigaitis explored the medical effects that electronic cigarettes had on the body, having done research and clinical trials with his father over the summer. He said that there had been no scientific research done on this topic despite electronic cigarettes being touted as a much safer alternative to regular cigarettes. He found that both normal and electronic cigarettes cause decreased cough sensitivity and hypothesized that it was the nicotine component that caused this.
Hawkins researched the ethicality of the current method of treating Ebola. The World Health Organization has been utilizing convalescent serum therapy to treat patients, even though there is no proof of efficacy and speculation that it could even exacerbate the spread of diseases such as HIV/AIDS because of careless blood donation centers.
“We have not held up to our responsibility of providing basic, supportive, care capabilities that are resource based,” Hawkins said. “And now we’re reacting, now we want a vaccine, now we want a convalescent serum to save ourselves from this virus while we’ve been lacking our responsibility all along.”
Berent LaBrecque, A&S ’15, Missa Sangimino, A&S ’15, and Sofia Soroka, A&S ’18, discussed some of the political and social issues that are at hand in society. LaBrecque, a history and political science major, discussed Kenya’s failed counterterrorism strategy, highlighting the disparity between the treatment social status of Christians and Muslims in the region.
Sangimino had researched the effects of solitary confinement on violent criminals for her Law and Economics class. She came to the conclusion that at the very least, the system needs to be reformed, citing statistics such as a 65 percent recidivism rate of criminals two to three months after release and the enormous financial cost to hold a prisoner in solitary.
Soroka discussed the optimism advantage and its place in our lives. One study of the optimism bias has shown that if one believes he or she will be happy, he or she is 1.6 times more likely to report good health later in the study. One issue with the optimism bias that Soroka raised is that when people who are told to have a positive outlook on their situation and then still don’t get better, they feel blamed for not being optimistic enough.
The final two talks discussed relationships and spirituality, presented by Mergim Bajraliu, A&S ’17, and Walter Yu, A&S ’16. Bajraliu talked about his experience with the Sandy Hook tragedy and the uncertainty and fear he felt when he realized his sister was at school the day of the shooting. After the incident, he changed the way he interacted with people, wanting to make every interaction full of as good intentions as possible so that if anything should happen to them, he would not have any regrets about his relationship with them. He emphasized that it is important to find the good in every situation, highlighting the fact that it is the small and seemingly insignificant acts that people do for one another that matter the most.
Yu shared his experience of questioning his faith as he grew up. Raised a devout Catholic, he eventually left the Church in an effort to discover what his place was in world, asking questions such as, “Why am I Catholic?” and “Why can’t I wake up happy?” He emphasized that his story was not one of a kid becoming an atheist, but rather one of self-discovery and openness to change.
“Pursuing a spiritual journey is never easy, as it shouldn’t be,” said Yu. “It requires an honesty and a vulnerability so intense and so sincere, and an openness to change is an openness to the possibility that one’s own values and beliefs might be wrong.”