Written by Kelly Tan | Image by Alyson Rozells
From digital forensics to Peter Pan’s elixir to the evolution of humour, the multipurpose hall at Yale-NUS College was filled with an interesting mix of scientific posters and enthusiastic students either spouting science theories or refuting scientific claims. This was the first Poster Session held at the end of the Scientific Inquiry (SI) course of the Yale-NUS Common Curriculum in Semester One.
“The poster session is one excellent way to assess a student’s understanding of his or her work. They are required to stand at the poster which they have produced, and answer wide-ranging questions from professors and classmates,” explained Professor Jeremy Kua, a chemist, and one of the many professors teaching SI as part of the Yale-NUS Common Curriculum in the first semester.
Like many of the students and professors, Professor Kua maintained that a poster session reaped a lot more benefits than a typical final assignment. A common practice at scientific conferences, poster sessions allow scientists to present and communicate their findings to their peers and the general public in an engaging manner with many opportunities for detailed discussions of the research, methodology and findings. It was an art in itself to decide what goes into the final poster for presentation.
To give them this exposure, students were assigned to teams of four, and each team was given a choice of topic to focus on amongst the wide range of themes they studied. In about two weeks of preparations that included reading and discussions and consulting with their professors, many of them came up with interesting discoveries and perspectives within the themes of Cancer, Forensics, Nutrition, AquaQuackery, Quantum Magic, Human Evolution, Senescence, and the Science in SciFi. During the Poster Session, students gamely fielded questions by different professors, classmates and staff, and in the process, some discovered that they had a lot more to learn.
In the field of AquaQuackery, a group discovered that the popular claim that drinking eight glasses of water a day was good for many health reasons, appeared to be more of a marketing message than conclusive research. Another group researched on the clock gene and how it relates to the circadian rhythm, and came up with the poster title “Sleep Late, Sleep Less, Get Fat”. Despite being drilled by Professor Kua on their knowledge of the theories they presented and discovering they could have done a lot more research, they really enjoyed the process of putting this poster together.
“The key difference between this poster session and a regular examination is that you have to know your work well enough to be able to present it to an audience. I feel like if I had to put in 100 percent for an examination, I would have to put in 150 percent to prepare for a presentation. The scope of research is so much wider,” shared student Erika Terrones Shibuya (Class of 2017).
“Instead of just memorising facts, this is very good training for critical thinking,” added student Joan Danielle Ongchoco (Class of 2017).
As part of the Common Curriculum, Yale-NUS students take SI to understand the underlying assumptions of various methodologies in science, and more fundamentally, the way that science functions as a mode of inquiry. Former physics student Evan Ma found the SI modules a good foundation for him to embark on his project on “Hyperfunction and its effect on senescence”. At the same time, he was impressed with the other projects his schoolmates have done, showing a scope of work beyond the curriculum.
Overall, students, professors and other attendees enjoyed the informative session.
“I am very impressed with the students’ work. This session has been beyond my expectations,” Professor Neil Clarke, another SI instructor, summed up nicely.