Ingenuity & Independent Research by RIC Graduating Honors Students
Michael Baribault ’14
Bacteria-infested marshes, ritualistic religious practices and candy bar marketing were among the investigations made by RIC honors students in fulfillment of their departmental honors projects.
At an April 28th poster session, 25 students graduating with honors, as well as graduating members of Sigma Xi (the Scientific Research Society), presented their independent research projects, while viewers had an opportunity to learn from and support their work.
Sara Moore ’14
Biologist Sara Moore’s two-year scientific study, directed by Assistant Professor of Biology Breea Govenar, was to determine if pollutants in Narragansett Bay’s saltwater marshes increased greenhouse-gas-producing bacteria.
“Bacteria use nitrogen as a food source and feed on the nitrogen in dead, decomposing plants,” Moore explained. “Nitrogen-loaded pollutants, like sewage and fertilizer, are constantly being flushed by the rivers into the marshes. I wanted to know if the additional nitrogen from human activity increased the type of bacteria that release greenhouse gases.”
Moore collected mussel specimens (where over 600 types of bacteria grow) from the Warwick marsh at the northern portion of Narragansett Bay and from the Jamestown marsh in the southerly portion of the Bay. After many field excursions, she discovered no increase in greenhouse-gas-producing bacteria, but she did find that mussel density increased with the increase in nitrogen. “Mussels in the more heavily polluted marsh in Warwick clustered together more,” she said.
Moore is taking her interest in biology to a research lab in Boston to study glaucoma, upon graduation. She said her classes and research at RIC have prepared her for this next step and that she intends to go on to medical school to conduct research in a hospital setting.
“Research gives me the luxury of thinking up my own questions and designing creative ways of answering them,” she said. “RIC empowered me with the confidence to follow my passion for discovery and use what I find to improve the lives of others.”
In addition to college honors, Moore will be graduating with the W. Christina Carlson Award for Excellence in Biology.
Another honors project by fine arts major Michael Baribault, directed by Professor of Art Stephen Fisher, consisted of a series of etchings, prints and plaster casts of his childhood parish St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church in Warwick. On an easel (see above) he displayed a print titled “One Hundred and Thirty Our Fathers.” In creating the print, Baribault used a linear image of St. Peter’s and included multiple perspectives layered one on top of the other – 130 layers to be exact. The background is the original blueprint of the building.
“At first glance, the individual churches are indefinable – structured chaos,” said Baribault. “They appear as a claustrophobic mass of information, but upon further inspection, the viewer begins to identify the repeated form – a steepled church.”
“My interest in mass repetition has to do with how religious beliefs are passed down from one generation to the next,” he said. “As a child I followed the family ritual of attending church every week and taking part in all the holy days. But as I got older, I realized that I was just following a blueprint laid out for me.” This honors project began a process of personal self-discovery, he said. Baribault intends to apply to graduate school and build on his love of art.
Byron Delmonico ’14
Byron Delmonico’s honors project was part of the American Marketing Association’s (AMA’s) Annual Collegiate Case Competition sponsored by The Hershey Company. The goal was to create a marketing plan for the relaunch of Hershey’s Take 5 candy bar.
Students at colleges and universities throughout North America put together teams of six to 30 students for this competition; however, Delmonico, a double major in marketing and operations management, worked on his own. Directed by Professor Stephen Ramocki, Delmonico spent upwards of 300 hours doing research and developing a strategic plan, he said. Out of 86 entries, he placed in the top 20 and achieved a Certificate of Excellence by the AMA. In addition to college honors, Delmonico will be graduating with the Outstanding Student Award in Marketing.
Ramocki said, “Byron is the rare type of student who only comes along every 10 years or so. In addition to his ultra-high performance in the classroom, he is president of the RIC Chapter of the AMA and has led them to heights the group has not witnessed before.”
Delmonico has already landed a contract as a marketing research consultant with a company in Rhode Island.
“The honors program is thriving and will continue to do so,” said Spencer Hall, retiring director of the Honors Program. “Of the 29 students graduating with General Education Honors this year, five will graduate cum laude, 10 magna cum laude and an unprecedented 14 summa cum laude. That includes the 25 who completed departmental honors projects and another half dozen or so more scheduled to complete projects in the fall. Factor in the unparalled number of incoming freshmen accepted into General Education Honors, and it has been a very good year for honors at RIC. Very good indeed.”