Far from being a simple typographic character, the ampersand in William & Mary represents the collaborative nature of the university.

This year, the ampersand is also the theme of the Graduate & Honors Research Symposium, taking place at the Sadler Center on March 30 and 31. Formerly known as the Graduate Research Symposium, this public event is now back in person after a virtual edition in 2020 – and a two-year break during the pandemic – with an added undergraduate honors element. RSVP to attend.

“Graduate students in Arts & Sciences often mentor and work alongside undergraduate researchers, so it felt like a natural partnership to bring the two groups together to underscore that synergy,” said Sarah Glosson, director of the Arts & Sciences Graduate Center.  

In total, 90 graduate students and 68 undergraduate honors students will present their research. The event will feature presenters from William & Mary, the William & Mary School of Marine Science at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and other institutions from across Virginia.

“The symposium allows for intellectual cross-pollination that profoundly deepens the relationship between the university’s undergraduate and graduate programs,” added Elizabeth Harbron, director of the Charles Center for Academic Excellence and Floyd D. Gottwald Sr. Professor of Chemistry. “Not only are our honors students gaining valuable experience in presenting their research to peers and the general public, but they’re doing so in ways that invite meaningful mentorship and collaboration with W&M graduate students.”

In a nod to the collaboration between the event’s co-hosts, the A&S Graduate Center and the Charles Center, the choice of “&” as a theme puts an emphasis on the arts and the sciences.

“Most of the graduate panels at our symposium will feature a blend of humanistic and scientific research, which is not something you often see from these types of events. It will undoubtedly spark conversations that couldn’t happen anywhere else,” said Morgan Brittain, Ph.D. student in American studies and communications coordinator for the symposium’s graduate committee.

Examples of this synergy include panels such as “Intertwined Lives,” bringing together speakers from marine science and different branches of anthropology; or “Humans, Technology, & New Media,” featuring graduate students from American studies and computer science.

The intersection between the arts and sciences is also a generative space for undergraduate honors students to broaden their research horizons.

For instance, Trinity Myers ’23, English major and pre-med student, highlights the role of literature in providing a deeper understanding of individuals and their unique contexts – and its potential in helping bridge communication gaps in health care. While working and volunteering in hospital settings, she noted how much patients valued clear and compassionate communication from medical providers.

“Medicine is unique among the sciences for its demand of human connection, something which I feel the study of literature can promote,” observed Myers.

Myers mentioned the British poet John Keats, who had been an early-19th century medical professional, and his 1819 ode “To Autumn,” which includes medical terminology reminiscent of the onset of disease.

“The feelings which Keats describes are universal and can still be felt and applied to medical settings today.”

But certain words can also act as a deterrent to seeking treatment. At the symposium, psychological sciences major Yvette Bivins-Sanchez ’23 will present research on mental health stigmatization, proposing mental health literacy as a way to decrease negative perceptions of mental illness.

While conducting her research, Bivins-Sanchez hoped to see decreased stigma in the experimental condition – in line with previous studies utilizing imagined contact – and investigated the implications of potential racial bias.

“My previous experience of working with a graduate student on a race cultural competency study is what actually inspired my honors research,” said Bivins-Sanchez. “Through my education at William & Mary I have learned that STEM, the social sciences and the humanities could be connected in unperceived ways.”

, Senior Research Writer