As part of the poster session, I set up my poster in a specified location and stood in front of it for approximately two and a half hours to answer questions. For the most part, only Biology faculty and Biology majors stopped to ask me anything, but it was still nice that some people were interested. I even had an education major stop by and ask me questions, and she seemed extremely interested! Only after she asked me all these questions did she tell me that this was part of an extra credit opportunity for her Psychology class... Oh well, I was happy to oblige anyway.
The Biology faculty seemed to be impressed with my work and were actively trying to understand the principles and formulate intelligent questions. Some of these faculty I haven't spoken to in several years, so it was nice to get to talk to them again. Not only did they ask research-related questions, but were genuinely concerned with me personally, such as was I excited to be a senior and so close to graduating. Or even what my plans were after leaving Xavier. Wow, that was a great feeling to actually be engaged by these brilliant people. That made me respect them even more (if that was possible).
The highlight of the poster session for me came toward the very end. As the session was wrapping up, the Dean came over and was looking around at the various posters in my area. She stopped right in front of mine, looked at the poster, and decided to ask me about it. She hadn't talked to anyone from my research group and picked me out of our four groups! This was a bit of a challenge for me, since most of the people who had stopped until now were familiar with biological terms and jargon. Since I wasn't sure what her background with Biology was, I had to be careful not to go overboard, but in the same way, she is the Dean and I didn't want to seem like I was dumbing it down. She seemed to be following along and was genuinely interested, asking intelligent questions just as the Biology faculty had done. At the end of my little talk, she seemed to be impressed and congratulated me on all my hard work. WOW! Plus she was genuinely interested in me personally, asking about what my plans were and if I was going to be at Commencement in May. Well obviously I am going, so she made a point to say, "Good, then I'll see you there!" What a rewarding experience, let me tell you. It's nice to be acknowledged, isn't it?
Part of the program, at least for the participants, was to receive a booklet with pictures of all the presenters and the abstracts of their research. (We also received a certificate for our participation, as well as a commemorative book bag for the occasion.) Our research advisor, Dr. Finke, decided to take a group picture instead of submitting individual pictures, so this was the photo that appeared in the booklet.
Underneath the picture and following on the next page were the abstracts from our presentations. So technically I was published! Here is the text of my abstract as it was included in the booklet. The only change that I made for the poster itself was that I included results as a part of the abstract. (The abstract was due about a month prior to the presentation, and at the time I didn't have results.)
EFFECTS OF SODIUM SULFATE SALINITY ON NITROGEN FIXATION ACTIVITY WITHIN THE AZOLLA-ANABAENA SYMBIOSIS
Sean M. Monroe, (Dr. Linda R. Finke)
Department of Biology
Nitrogen fixation is an important process within the nitrogen cycle in which atmospheric nitrogen is reduced to ammonia by the bacterial enzyme nitrogenase. This process is typical within bacterial-plant symbioses in which the bacterial symbiont fixes nitrogen, which in turn benefits the plant symbiont. The Azolla-Anabaena symbiosis is a perfect example of such a relationship, since the Anabaena cyanobacterium provides ammonia for the Azolla fern, while in turn receiving a suitable habitat under the leaves of the ferns. Since this symbiosis exists in aqueous environments, small changes in the content of the water can have a dramatic effect on the survival and activity of both symbionts. Salinity is one cause of such problems, and was the basis for this study. In this study, the effects of the salt sodium sulfate (Na2SO4) were studied on the Azolla-Anabaena symbiosis. The symbionts were exposed to three concentrations of Na2SO4 between 5 and 15 mM and allowed to grow for several weeks. My hypothesis was that the Na2SO4 would be detrimental to the survival of the symbionts and would cause a decrease in nitrogen fixation activity. The acetylene reduction assay was performed at hourly intervals to measure nitrogen fixation rates of the experimental groups exposed to Na2SO4. Acetylene reduction data were compared among these treatment groups, and with reference to a control group of organisms not exposed to Na2SO4 salinity.