Tales from Fall Fest

Students share their experiences in the Worcester community and beyond


Emily Morang

A student presents her research to President David Angel

Jessica Macey, Editor-In-Chief

Students presented their research to staff, faculty, fellow students, and community members who wandered through the maze of posters and presentations that filled the Academic Commons and Goddard Library for this year’s Fall Fest.

Established in 2000, Fall Fest takes place every fall semester, and it is an opportunity for students to share their summer research and internship experiences. Held from 1 to 4 p.m. on Oct. 27, Fall Fest featured poster presentations on the first and second floors of the building, and oral presentations in the upper-level conference rooms. Twelve oral presentations in fields ranging from music to computer science, and 96 poster presentations across 27 majors, concentrations, and programs were a part of the event.

Katherine Wallace (‘19) presented her poster, titled “Transitions from Jail to the Community: An Analysis of Statewide Resources,” sponsored by Professor Marianne Sarkis.

Over the course of the summer, Wallace made a number of visits to the Worcester County Jail as well as the Hampden County women’s facility in Chicopee, Mass., conducted interviews with jail administrators, and did research on best practices in the state and elsewhere in order to conduct an analysis of where service gaps exist in these jails.

“What we found is that Worcester County Jail is just … really badly off,” said Wallace. In her visits, she found it to be “just this very gruesome, awful scene.”

“To be very honest, it was a very hard summer with this, especially … after visiting Worcester County Jail. It’s a very depressing environment,” she said.

She highlighted a visit to a mental health unit at Worcester County, where inmates were kept in their cells for 23 hours a day, poor air circulation caused strong and unpleasant odors, and people were screaming.

The women’s facility in Chicopee had a much better model, where inmates were allowed more time out of their cells, and were encouraged to participate in more service-based activities.

After her research was conducted, Wallace concluded that “ facilities serving Worcester can improve by attending more to the multifaceted needs of inmates ultimately reentering the community,” as her poster explained.

The project is continuing into the fall. Wallace said that the next steps are to interview people who have been released from prisons and jails to discuss short and long term recovery.

“The results of this research will ideally be used to advocate for policies in the jails to improve conditions and reduce recidivism,” explained her poster. Wallace discussed that the goal is to compile the information from the summer, as well as from the research being conducted over the fall, to bring to City Council “so they can realize that it’s a bad reality” and advocate for change.

Isabella Frederick (‘19) shared her experience as an intern for Planned Parenthood in Portland, Maine. She worked with 12 other interns on a variety of duties, such as phone banking, outreach events, and “knocking on strangers’ doors … asking them how they feel about abortion.”

The campus organizer of NARAL Pro-Choice at Clark, Frederick already had an interest in reproductive rights, and explained that she specifically wanted to work with Planned Parenthood.

“I got a lot more professional experience in the field,” she said. “Right now I’m transitioning from having this as a hobby to a professional interest.”

“My internship was a success in many aspects. I confronted personal limitations, learned from reproductive freedom professionals, and had many difficult but enlightening conversations with voters,” she summarized on her poster.

As for presenting at Fall Fest, she found that “it has been good to summarize my experience and tie it all together instead of just ending it and moving on with my life.”

Eli Baldwin (‘19) worked with five other students over the summer to assess the health of trees planted on institutional and private properties in Holyoke, Mass. and Chelsea, Mass. as part of the Greening the Gateway Cities Program.

“The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) started a tree-planting program mostly in post-industrial cities,” said Baldwin. The group’s poster gave additional background information, explaining that “post-industrial cities in the northeastern united states face rising summer and winter energy costs for residents in older housing stock, partly due to low tree canopy cover,” and the Greening the Gateway Cities project sought to increase canopy cover by 10 percent in select cities by planting new trees.

Conducting the first follow-up on the trees’ health, Baldwin and his colleagues traveled to Chelsea and Holyoke to assess each of the trees. They found that tree location had implications on health.

“Trees planted on residential properties had a much higher survivorship,” discussed Baldwin.

Furthermore, “trees planted in people’s front yards do better than trees planted in back yards, presumably because people care more about their front yards than their backyards,” he added.

The group recommended that in order to best keep the trees healthy, there should be more communication on tree care between the DCR and the property owners where the trees were planted, particularly those owners of institutional properties. The group has already presented to the DCR.

Within the physics department, Cameron Mitchell (‘18) presented his project, titled “Frequency Dependent Filtering by Signalling Pathways,” sponsored by Professor Ranjan Mukhopadhyay, a project that combined his interests of biology and physics.

In this project, he used MATLAB to model cell signaling pathways expressed in differential equations.

“Cell signaling is a very basic form of communication done by cells adjacent to one another through the use of chemical pathways,” explained Mitchell’s poster. In this case, the differential equation he used represented a generic signaling pathway; however, he discussed that this kind of process can be used to study more specific signaling pathways involved in things such as stem cell research.

“I had never seen a differential equation before,” said Mitchell, revisiting the beginning of the research process. He had to learn how to solve them, as well as how to then, according to his poster, “write a program designed to solve the differential equations that represented a generic signaling pathway.”

At that point, he was able to make and analyze graphs, and then create a fitness function to understand the signaling pathway represented by the differential equations. This type of work can be expanded on to get a deeper understanding of the role of different components of the pathway, as well as to understand more specific types of signaling pathways.

Mitchell described his experience at fall fest as “insane — I haven’t stopped talking the whole time. My voice hurts.”

Emily Morang
Cam Mitchell (’18) presents his research