From ‘Talks’ On Research, Big Ideas Emerge

Emotional intelligence. The stigma of menstruation. Racial and cultural identity in Latin America. Induced pluripotent stem cells. Neuroscience and America’s prisons. Inequalities in urban environments due to food insecurity. The self and its identity.

The Heights Room was filled with big ideas, and students packed it Sunday afternoon to learn more about these topics—addressed by their peers—at the BCTalks Spring 2015 Speaker Series. Modeled on the popular TedTalks, BCTalks aims to close the dichotomy at Boston College between a student’s academic and social life. The BCTalks team partnered with Education for Students by Students (ESS) to present seven students’ research, knowledge, and passions.

Danielle Dalton, CSOM ’16, Angie Zablotny, CSON ’15, Brittany Burke, LSOE ’15, Maggie Aasen, A&S ’15, Amy McDonnell, A&S ’15, Alex Moscovitz A&S ‘15, and Lucas Perry, A&S ’16, spoke Sunday afternoon, and the event was co-directed by Jack Moroney, A&S ’15, and Pat Swearingen, CSOM ’15.

As an undergraduate lecture series, the mission of BCTalks parallels that of ESS, which “hopes to instill a sense of excitement in both learning and teaching.” BCTalks is a celebration of the personal and academic achievements of BC students by filming their lectures to make them available for the BC community.

Dalton, who shared her thoughts on her research titled “The Overlooked Power of Emotional Intelligence,” referenced how many students lack the ability to process their emotions. She offered students steps to reflect on their psychological health, including making time to think, surrounding yourself with people who bring you up, and, most importantly, giving yourself a chance.

“The point of the talk is not to tell you what to do, but to think about what is important to you as an individual,” Dalton said. “Do not compare yourself to the person next to you because your experience is individualized.”

Zablotny gave a talk on “Conversations on Menstruation,” which raised the question as to why menstruation, a healthy and vital part of life for women, is perceived as something to be ashamed of. She described her time abroad in a quasi-rural village in Africa where young girls felt uncomfortable speaking about menstruation and the cultural beliefs behind the process. Asking young girls to body map with painting supplies, Zoblotny researched the unity of women through menstruation and the stigmas that come with it.

“Stand up and speak honestly about something that goes unspoken and try to help in some small way, to help people speak about women’s health issues,” Zablotny said.

Burke’s “Zap! A Poetic Reflection on Indigenous Politics and Identity in Latin America” focused on biases related to racial and cultural identity in areas with limited political mobilization. Utilizing her spoken word skills, Burke described the irony of indigenous politics.

“Being socially just is not being just about being social. Who is to blame about this misunderstanding? Why am I still standing when so many have fallen?” Burke said. “What is ZAP? It was really PAZ, peace spelled backwards. I realized that I looked too quickly, making a mistake. Sometimes we look too quickly and we make mistakes, leaving peace out of the equation.”

“How to Make a Beating Heart Out of a Piece of Your Skin,” Aasen’s BCTalk, introduced students to induced pluripotent stem cells (IPSCs). Her focus on social justice can be seen through her interests in genetic research and biomedical projects.

Aasen described the various medical uses of IPS cells, which varies from researching genetic diseases to formulating drug therapies.

“IPSCs are adult cells that have been genetically reprogrammed to behave like stem cells, removing controversies related to embryonic stem cell research,” Aasen said. “BC is currently developing this technology in hopes to contribute to this important and up and coming research.”

McDonnell’s talk on “How Neuroscience Can Save the Crisis in America’s Prisons” attempted to bring a new idea into judicial discussions: admitting a defendant’s brain scans as evidence in the court room.

“There are currently 30 times more mentally ill patients in America’s overcrowded prisons than in psychiatric hospitals,” McDonnell stated. “Admitting brain scans showing abnormal brain function in the courtroom will establish a consistent protocol for sentencing mentally ill patients that will benefit the offender, the victim, and the justice system.”

Moscovitz’s “Urban Agriculture and STEM Education” relates her research on urban environments and the inequalities that youth in these environments face related to food insecurity and STEM education. By proliferating these types of curriculum at schools, students will be able to better fight this inequality.

“As the local food movement has gained momentum and the issue of community food security have come to the forefront of social and political concern, organizations have initiated programs to bring fresh food to urban communities,” Moscovitz explained.

Perry’s “The Self Is An Illusion” raised questions regarding the self and its true identity. Arguing that there is no self, Lucas utilized philosophical and scientific research to dismiss the concept.

“Who are you? What are you most fundamentally? No, not your name, where you come from or your interests,” Perry asked. “What is it that you refer to when you use the pronoun ‘I’?

Featured Image by Arthur Bailin / Heights Editor