Cater Fellows present research, share findings of independent studies

By Heather Fabritze

Student Life Editor

The student members of the Libby and Douglass Cater Society of Junior Fellows shared their self-directed research projects with the campus community at the program’s spring symposium.

Hosted in the atrium of the John S. Toll Science Center, the symposium is designed to showcase the months of work and development of research projects by the Society’s members, provide opportunities for networking, and introduce interested underclassmen to the opportunities offered to junior fellows.

The event opened at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 9. Ten fellows presented their independent research projects which were funded by the Cater Society.

Presentations given at the event discussed a variety of topics from a wide range of fields, including shelter dog relocation, the effect of development and adult isolation housing on behavior, lichen biodiversity in Acadia National Park in Maine, and differing perceptions of alien life between generations in Havana, Cuba.

According to Associate Professor of Anthropology and Dean of Student Achievement and Success Dr. Aaron Lampman, the diversity of research interests that were seen in these presentations reflects the ideals of Libby Cater, who was the first lady of Washington College from 1982 to 1990.

A new development announced at the open house relates specifically to Libby’s impact. Originally known as the Douglass Cater Society of Junior Fellows, the society’s name will now include Libby Cater.

“[We are] reminded of her vision for the Society as a way to foster innovation by nurturing collective learning and promoting personal exploration,” Dr. Lampman said in his opening speech at the symposium. “Her abiding passion for experiential learning beyond the classroom is reflected in the enormous diversity of fields of study undertaken by the Junior Fellows as you can see reflected here in these posters.”

Dr. Lampman said that Libby’s “legacy of empowerment and opportunity” would continue to be supported in the dedicated work of the Cater Society’s Fellows.

Junior Anastasia Bekker used the society’s support and funding to research barriers to education in Zanzibar, a province of Tanzania. She taught at a Zanzibar school in July 2022, searching for a connection between child labor and issues with the education system.

While her discoveries showed no clear relationship, Bekker said the experience was still formative.

“The schools are underfunded, which I saw by working in one,” Bekker said. “The one that I worked in was actually funded by international donors, which is why they could take on more kids, but even then, there was a strict limit to how many kids they could take. And they had to turn down a lot.”

Senior Queen Cornish also traveled internationally for their research.

Cornish visited Cuba in an effort to study how its cultural landscape continues to be influenced by human adaptation to the environment. According to Cornish, a significant portion of their experience involved the lack of affordable and safe food options for many Cuban families.

While their meals at the Casa Alina Bed and Breakfast in Havana, Cuba included fresh fruit juice, rice and beans, and rabbit, their research indicated that the average Cuban may “struggle to acquire” these items.

“And that’s why I posit this [cuisine] experience as the American experience of Cuba,” Cornish said.

Other fellows’ projects involved experimental-based research.

Senior Holly Myers studied the impact of agriculture on the evolution of plant defenses, as mediated by certain shifts in herbivorous insect populations. She said that she was already “broadly” interested in plant science and entomology, but that working with another internship and the Cater Society gave her a framework for her research.

“Going into the summer before my senior year, I applied to a lot of programs where I knew I could continue to study this,” Myers said. “And I got accepted into [my internship] and it seemed like the perfect fit for me.”

Applications to become a Junior Fellow are open until Friday, Feb. 17 at 11:59 p.m. Specific information such as forms, deadlines, and requirements can be found on the Cater Society website.

The application process will reopen again in fall 2023.

Elm Archive Photo

Photo Caption: The spring symposium was held in Toll Atrium.

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