A Unique Ruhlman Conference for a Unique Year

A grid showing four students who are participating in this year's Ruhlman Conference—all head shots.
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In a typical year, classes are canceled on the day of the annual Ruhlman Conference so that students can attend presentations. Like most events in 2021, the conference has been adapted into a remote experience. The prerecorded presentations will be available asynchronously on the Ruhlman website starting May 20.

The conference, which is supported by the Barbara Peterson Ruhlman Fund for Interdisciplinary Study, highlights student research projects in the social sciences, humanities, and science and technology with a goal of encouraging collaboration between students and faculty as well as intellectual engagement with a broader audience.

Below, some of the participating students describe the research they will present at this year’s conference:

LE Latimore ’24 will discuss her study of “how oppressed voices in the Bible were silenced, and how if some of these stories were told today, or from different perspectives, biblical stories would be much more controversial. I follow the story of David and Bathsheba—a story where David (known as one of the greatest and wisest kings) takes advantage of a married woman, using his power to coerce her. I retell this story using visual aids from the female perspective. This story was often brushed off in church because it’s uncomfortable, and there’s a biblical pattern of brushing off the voices of the most oppressed. Had we focused on this story and its consequences in a religious setting, it would have required the church to be ready for conversations about gender equality. In such a male-dominated space, I simply don’t think they wanted that. It is my hope that this encourages people to truly consider the types of stories that we often brush off biblically, and to be more critical of a widely used text!”

Alex Reichle ’22, a neuroscience major, is presenting as part of a group that worked with the Laboratory for Language and Cognitive Development (LLCD) at Wellesley during the Science Center Summer Research Program. They will explain “how firsthand experience with an object influences preschool-age children’s gesture about that object.” She said the topic was inspired by “a series of studies that were done by LLCD in the past, looking to see what motivates changes in preschool age children’s gesture use.” She said she hopes that “attendees take away the idea that children’s cognition is so impressive and vast even if the children themselves don’t know it yet!”

Music major Isabella DeHerdt ’21 is presenting work from her senior thesis project, “Music in the Time of Corona: An Exploration of Remote Collaborations, Artistic Innovation, and the Post-Covid 19 Industry.” “It is a multidisciplinary thesis that focuses on artistic creation and the music industry during the pandemic,” she wrote in an email. “The music industry was broken by the epidemic—leaving artists unable to work, and numerous venues closed down—but at the same time, many people turned to art more than ever before.” Her thesis focuses on musicians and industry professionals, highlighting their quick and cautious adaptations in the wake of the public health crisis: “I collaborated with four musicians in three different quarantine setups: fully remote, socially distanced, and within my bubble. We worked to compose and record original music so that I could have a hands-on understanding of what musical creation was becoming during Covid-19. I also interviewed, wrote field notes, and reviewed works from 10 industry professionals ranging from venue owners to label managers, and then compiled all my findings into a 60-page ethnographic paper and four multimedia portfolios.” Her Ruhlman presentation will include performances and an explanation of her findings.

Biochemistry major Kate Dolph ’21 is presenting her honors thesis, which is about “modifying layered nanoparticles with bioactive peptides to improve chemotherapy targeting tumors. The nanoparticles act as a ‘vehicle’ for the chemotherapy cargo, with the goal of improving drug delivery to tumor tissue and reducing delivery to healthy tissue, which is the source of some of the side effects associated with chemotherapy. Specifically, my thesis focuses on a novel conjugation strategy to modify nanoparticles with tumor-penetrating peptides, to increase nanoparticle uptake by ovarian cancer cells, and blood-brain barrier transport peptides, to increase the number of nanoparticles that can cross the blood-brain barrier to reach glioma tumors.” She hopes viewers enjoy learning about the “promising field of nanotechnology for cancer treatment.”