Texas Woman’s University students and faculty brought their talents and dedication to the second annual “Pioneer Research at the Mall” exhibition on Saturday at Golden Triangle Mall.
“We’re scientists, and scientists are historically bad at telling people about what they do, or at least at being able to explain it to them in ways they understand,” said professor Richard Sheardy, chairman of TWU's chemistry and biochemistry department. “We need to do a better job of that.”
He said student scientists at TWU learn their professions likely will entail public interaction, social responsibility, creative thinking and the need to explain one’s work, in addition to doing the work itself. Saturday's exhibition of student and faculty work, he said, was an opportunity for TWU scientists to get exposure and experience in publicly sharing what they do.
“[This] is a way of letting people in Denton know what it is that we do at the university and hopefully they’ll walk away saying, ‘Yeah, our tax dollars are being well spent,’” Sheardy said.
Last year, the inaugural exhibition displayed works from only the TWU College of Arts and Sciences. This time, the event's scope expanded and more projects got exposure, including those of students from the College of Nursing and the College of Health Sciences. The event in the mall's food court was themed like a science exposition, and posters were the chosen medium for display.
Some of the works involved cancer and drug studies; others involved linguistic studies, vegetarianism, chemistry or even wizardry. Students and faculty alike were intent on sharing the value of their work with curious passers-by. Many of the exhibitors shared stories of their work as it relates to their lives.
“The reason why I actually got interested in this is because my dad himself has cancer,” said Tasnya Rasheed, a TWU senior chemistry student.
Rasheed’s father is now in remission from lymphoma, a type of cancer that affects the immune system, and has been doing well since his chemotherapy treatments, she said.
It was her father’s journey through cancer, remission, a resurfacing of the cancer and another period of remission that sparked her interest in studying cancer drugs and treatments, as shown in her group’s exhibition, “Understanding How Anticancer Drugs Kill Cancer Cells.”
Other exhibition topics included forensic evidence in undergraduate nursing curricula, studies in early childhood development and maternal mortality research. Many — if not all — of the projects on display Saturday had real-world implications and possibilities.
Cynthia Maguire, a senior lecturer at TWU who displayed her talents with chemistry under the moniker "The Mistress of Potions," explained she dons the costume of a mysterious wizarding character to inspire children and others to achieve their dreams.
“Three years ago, I didn’t want to be a wizard when I grew up, and today I am one, so that tells you there's a journey in there somewhere,” Maguire said, cloaked in her illustrious red wizarding garb.
She said years ago she spoke with her department officials to get approval to become a "wizard" and perform for interested students after seeing another scientist take on the moniker "Garen the Wizard." She spent Saturday afternoon educating onlookers about the wonders of potions and chemistry as the Mistress of Potions.
"The idea is to get kids to think science is fun and interesting, and that they can do it," Maguire said. "It's not too hard; it's not inaccessible."
As part of her costume, she carries a metal string of charms, which include “Wish Dust,” special keys to life and knowledge, and charms that remind one to dream and believe. She said every performance serves as a reminder to children to invest in themselves and their aspirations.
“I talk to them about dreaming,” she said.
During the event, echoes of laughing children rang out from a nearby play area inside Golden Triangle Mall. Perhaps the children were ignorant to the thoughts of their futures, just as many of the nearby TWU students likely had been when they were children.
“If you want to do great, big things," Maguire said, "you have to have great, big dreams.”
For more information regarding the research exhibition and projects, contact event organizer, Dr. Nasrin Mirsaleh Kohan, at NMirsalehKohan@twu.edu.
KYLE MARTIN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and via Twitter at @Kyle_Martin35.