PORTLAND, Me — The Thinking Matters event allows USM, SMCC, and CMCC students to show-off their research. In turn, people can learn about important issues such as the improvements of meditation on children, how stormwater runoff can contribute to an ecosystem imbalance or how Maine public schools teach sex education. This is the day when students get to educate and share their research, work and passion.
At 8 am, Thinking Matters began with students pinning their posters up. Two of whom was USM’s Emily Epstein and David Wright. Their project “Mindfulness and Well-Being in School-Age Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Literature Review” is a guide to the scientific studies of how mindful meditation improved children’s mental and emotional function. Epstein and Wright found that children who meditate had a positive perspective and balanced emotional state.
According to the literature, a school-aged child’s brain is highly influential. They also discovered that in follow-up studies in times of prolonged stress, students continued to do well on managing their mental and emotional state.
Thinking Matters isn’t just for USM students. For the event, the new SMCC chair of biological science department Daniel Moore mentored his students. One of whom was Nicolle Dauphinee. Her presentation “International Collaboration and New Technology can Reveal Rare Genes that Determine Height” dealt with how new technology such as the Exome Chip can decode rare DNA variants.
The Exome Chip is capable of finding mutations and variants across thousands of DNA tests. According to Dauphinee, the literature suggested that abnormally tall or short people had these rare gene variants. So far, by using the Exome Chip, scientists have reported 83 genetic mutations that can influence height.
Carla Woodward is another SMCC student presented her project “Synaptic Plasticity and Signal Transduction Gene Polymorphisms and Vulnerability to Drug Addictions in Populations of European of African Ancestry.” She researched a study that looked at 185 single nucleotide polymorphisms (gene variants) in 32 genes that relate to brain nerve cell development.
Woodward investigated several inherited mutated genes that correlate to drug addiction and how they can be passed down in both European and African families suggesting that there is a genetic influence on addiction.
In the USM biology department, Sharon Mann wrote and did her own experiment for her Thinking Matters presentation the “Effects of Water Quality on Boldness and Movement of the Common Periwinkle (Littorina littorea).” Mann’s research suggested that bacteria have an affect on periwinkle behavior.
“The reason why boldness matters is because the more bold you are [periwinkle], the more you’re saying ‘hey, come eat me,’” said Mann. According to Mann, when poked, periwinkles slide back into their shell to protect themselves. If they stay out of their shell, they are likely to be eaten. She said that her research suggested that E.coli in stormwater runoff in Spruce Creek and two other polluted areas influenced periwinkle behavior, which can affect their population.
At noon, fresh sandwiches and drinks were brought out. President Cummings and SMCC President Ron Cantor spoke in Abromson auditorium about how important is to have students from different colleges come together to showcase their work. While the audience ate their lunch, awards were given to USM, CMCC, and SMCC mentors.
After lunch, in the School of Social Work, Grace Nevins and Michael Johnston explain their poster “The Student Experience of Sexual Education in Maine Public Schools.” According to Nevins and Johnston, interviewees wanted an open honest discussion about sex, diverse information on sexual health, and instead of going to a teacher or a friend, admitted to searching on the internet about sex.
Participants said that Maine public schools don’t facilitate a comfortable environment, lack sufficient information and don’t explain sexual health for all students. According to public school students, instead of communicating and forming friendships with students, faculty members in Maine public high schools don’t always make sex education a critical aspect of the curriculum.
Whether it be a guide on scientific studies, research piece or a poster about an experiment, the Thinking Matters event let’s students to research, learn, present and teach what’s important to them. Giving students opportunities to shine a light on topics invisible to others helps Maine grow. That’s why Thinking Matters.