It's Scholars Week, which means a return of the popular faculty/student collaboration presentations

Poster sessions, 3-Minute Thesis presentations also set for later this week
Alexandrea Otto, Isabel Shier and Maya Mijares working on the research for their Scholars Week collaboration.

The annual celebration of student research and creative works known as Scholars Week is returning to Western Washington University the week of May 13-17.

There are a variety of events at Scholars Week, such as graduate student Three-Minute Thesis presentations and the Poster Session for both undergraduate and graduate students. One relatively new Scholars Week event involves a third group: faculty.

“They’ve only been doing Faculty/Student Collaborations for three years, and I did one the first year,” said Mary Hunt, an associate professor of Health and Human Development at Western. “It’s an invaluable experience for students to do research with a professor and present it to a broader audience.”

Hunt’s presentation this year is based on qualitative research about people’s experiences with combining cannabis and sex. The research was a collaborative effort with 11 students and has been in progress for two years.

“Last year I was just like part of the lab, but now I’m in a cool spot with taking on more of a leadership role,” said Tasha Denton, a fourth-year public health student involved with the cannabis project.

Hunt and Denton’s collaboration is rooted in social science, but there is a wide variety of subjects and topics that the collaborations can cover at Scholars Week.

“I just think it's fascinating to learn about what’s around us,” said Alejandro Acevedo-Gutierrez, a Biology professor at Western.

Acevedo-Gutierrez’s Scholars Week presentation this year is a collaboration with another biology professor, Dietmar Schwarz; marine/estuary science graduate student Alexandrea Otto; and two undergraduate biology students, Isabel Shier and Maya Mijares.

“The project’s overall goal is to update the genetic population structure of harbor seals to help management and conservation organizations make responsible decisions in terms of managing harbor seals,” Otto said. “It’s not only about harbor seal conservation, but other species relying on harbor seals, such as harbor seal prey like pacific salmon.”

Otto is utilizing a new molecular technique called GT-seq that deals with nuclear DNA, while Shier and Mijares are working with mitochondrial DNA, which is only passed down by mothers.

Not only do these scholars have different scientific backgrounds, they also come from different places. Acevedo-Gutierrez grew up in Mexico and Schwarz is from Germany. Otto, Mijares and Shier are from Nebraska, Colorado and Washington.

“It’s fascinating to see five people with different perspectives, backgrounds and experiences coming together,” Acevedo-Gutierrez said.

The 10 Scholars Week Faculty/Student Collaborations will be presented on May 14 in the Carver Hall of Fame Room (CV 221) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“Hopefully these collaborations are a good motivator for younger students to think ‘that could be me,’” Acevedo-Gutierrez said.

About Scholars Week at WWU

Scholars Week, an annual celebration of student research and creative activities at Western, was created by a unanimous resolution of the Faculty Senate in November 1999. What was originally envisioned as “Scholars Day” quickly became “Scholars Week” to accommodate a diverse series of events highlighting the scholarship and creativity of Western students. Scholars Week occurs annually each May and has become a highlight of the academic year, celebrating the contributions of students as they enrich the intellectual environment of Western and society in general.