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UMaine holds 4th annual Student Symposium in Cross Insurance Center

On Wednesday, April 10, the University of Maine held its fourth annual graduate and undergraduate Student Research Symposium in Bangor’s Cross Insurance Center. The event, which ran from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m., allowed presenters the chance to showcase their research to their peers and other members of the greater Bangor area community.

Over 300 students participated, with undergraduates and graduates constituting a nearly equal amount. As a part of the larger Maine Impact Week, the symposium followed a Faculty Mentor Appreciation luncheon on April 8 and preceded Accepted Students Day on April 12.

“The UMaine Student Symposium is reflective of Maine’s flagship university at work, a world-class research university dedicated to workforce development and economic advancement benefiting Maine and beyond,” Kody Varahramyan, vice president for research and dean of the graduate school, said in a press statement.

Students from nearly every college and discipline showed up to present on Wednesday, and examples of research could be found throughout subjects as diverse as health care, social sciences, natural science, engineering, education and the arts.

Charlize Castro, a fourth-year chemistry student, was one of this year’s presenters. Castro presented her research on the ability to “synthesize photoswitchable compounds using an azobenzene component [in order to] block TREK-1 channels.”

“The symposium was a good experience to be judged on my presentation skills,” Castro said. “I have done a poster session before but on a much smaller scale. I didn’t talk to other students much about their research but it was nice to see the other research being done on campus. The sandwiches were pretty good too.”

Stuart Kestenbaum, Maine’s poet laureate since 2016, served as the symposium’s keynote speaker. Kestenbaum was formerly a director of the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle, Maine, where for 27 years he created innovative ways of combining craft work with creative work like writing.

“I’m excited to be participating in this year’s symposium,” Kestenbaum said before the event. “For me there is nothing more important to our future than our ability to be creative, to move from the known into the unknown and understand ourselves and our world in new and unexpected ways.”

As part of the symposium, finalists for UMaine’s Three Minute Thesis competition presented their research. The Three Minute Thesis competition, which was created at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, requires that a presenter successfully inform his or her audience on a topic in under three minutes while using only one PowerPoint slide.

Cameron Hodgdon, a doctoral candidate in marine biology and the competition’s first prize winner, was chosen to represent UMaine at the annual Northeastern Association of Graduate Schools regional 3MT competition over the weekend of April 11-13 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Hodgdon’s project focused on “incorporating environmental drivers to improve assessment and projections for American lobster in a changing Gulf of Maine and southern New England.”

“The Three Minute Thesis competition makes you think differently about your research than you ever have,” Hodgdon said. “Too many of us simply see our research as numbers and equations and models and charts, but it’s more than that — it’s an impact.”

Elizabeth Kilroy, the vice president of UMaine’s graduate student government, said one goal of the event is to benefit the state of Maine.

“Our main focus is actually helping [Maine] at the local level, the state level, and then looking nationally at how we can apply what we’ve learned to impact a greater percentage of the population,” Kilroy said. “I think students are finally seeing that their work matters and it’s important.”

The 2019 Student Symposium was jointly managed by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School, the Center for Undergraduate Research and the Graduate Student Government. More information may be found online at; or over the phone by calling the Center for Undergraduate Research at (207) 581-3583.

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