Keynote Speakers

Each year, the highly competitive keynote speaker award is presented to up to four graduating seniors with outstanding projects in their discipline. Keynote speakers are selected based on the following criteria: i) project must include a compelling thesis, hypothesis, or idea/message; ii) demonstrates scholarly or imaginative engagement in the subject; iii) topic is of interest to a wider audience; iv) demonstrates a new contribution to the field (original work on the part of the student).

Keynote speaker applications for the 2021 Virtual Symposium are now open! Applications will be accepted until February 1, 2021. Winners of the Keynote award will receive a monetary award of $250 and will present their project to the Simmons community on Thursday, April 22, 2021.

2020 Keynote Speakers

Jenna Guglielmo photoJenna Guglielmo

Major: Biochemistry

Faculty Mentor: Shreya Bhattacharyya, Ahmed Radwan

Project: Elucidating the behavior of Cannabidiol (CBD) with other Cannabinoid Derivatives using Spectroscopic Analysis and Biological Assays to Demonstrate the Efficacy of CBD

Jenna Guglielmo is a fourth-year Biochemistry student conducting her senior thesis through the Chemistry & Physics Department. She has dedicated two years of research around Cannabidiol (CBD) because of its uprise in popularity and focuses on the medical efficacy of the compound. The project has advanced in both scope and complexity by participating in the Summer Undergraduate Research Program at Simmons (SURPASs) where she studied wound-healing rates and how CBD plays a role in cellular migration. Currently, she is looking into the function of CBD and its roles in both biology and chemistry with a focus on chemical kinetics. Her future plans are to attend graduate school and obtain a PhD in Organic Chemistry and eventually go into industry and work in drug development.

Abstract: The Cannabis sativa plant contains over 100 active compounds that can be extracted from the plant. These analogs are better known as a class of compounds called cannabinoids. Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the two most recognized cannabinoids and is known to the general public as the non-psychoactive component of cannabis. CBD has been claimed to treat a wide range of medical ailments ranging from seizures to tumors. The other notable cannabinoid is Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is known as the psychoactive component in the plant. These two compounds are almost identical in structure, yet they have completely binary physiological effects. CBD products are one of the most widely available, unregulated substances that are on the market today. With that, most products that are marketed claim that they are 100% free of the psychoactive component, THC. How can we be so sure that these products are pure if they are unregulated, and how can we know if CBD is medically useful if there has been limited studies on the compound itself? The field of interest in this study is to understand the behavior of CBD in different environments such as pH and temperature. This study is also in parallel with a biological model to demonstrate the efficacy of CBD on wound-healing in cells. It has been hypothesized that under certain conditions, CBD can convert to it’s psychoactive form, THC due to similarities in structure. This project aims to focus on the rate at which CBD behaves on a chemical and biological level by monitoring changes using a wide-range of techniques. The significance of the study is to expand the knowledge of CBD as well as fill in the missing gaps in research.

Kalamakaleimahoehoe Porter photoKalamakaleimahoehoe Porter

Major: Environmental Science (Biology Track)

Faculty Mentor: Anna Aguilera

Project: We Are All Alive: Understanding Connections between People and Coral Reefs in Samoa

Kalei Porter is completing her degree in Environmental Science with minors in Economics, Biostatistics, and the Performing Arts. During her time at Simmons, she has studied a little bit of everything. Last spring, Kalei collected both scientific data and oral interview responses concerning coral reefs in the Polynesian country of Samoa during her semester abroad. In addition, she utilized ecological survey techniques and methodology from statistics and economics courses to create a more complete, interdisciplinary understanding of the reefs. Coral reefs have always held a place of wonder and importance in her life, and it was very rewarding to isolate why coral reefs are especially important in Samoa.

AbstractSamoa is a small island developing state located in the South Pacific that is surrounded by coral reefs. Because of its isolation and limited resources, inadequate research has been done there on the quality and importance of the coral reefs present. To increase the present knowledge base, this work seeks to incorporate ecological research methods, socioeconomic data analysis, and local story collection into one understanding of coral reefs on the most densely populated island in Samoa, Upolu. Data was collected in spring 2019 through on-site fieldwork that utilized transects and timed dives to assess four reef health indicators at four sites (Palolo Deep, Lefaga/Savaia, Amaile, and the Aga Reef Resort). Socio-economic indicators were sourced from the Samoa Bureau of Statistics. In addition, interviews were conducted to gain indigenous Samoan perspectives on the importance of coral reefs in their communities. Findings include statistical patterns between the socioeconomic factors of population demographics, unemployment rates, education, and improved water, waste, and sanitation facilities and the environmental indicators of prevalence of plastic, percentage cover of living coral, parrotfish population size, and fish species richness. The ecological assessment showed that Palolo Deep was by far the healthiest reef. Interview responses indicate that Samoans care about coral reefs for a variety of reasons, which may be part of what makes certain reefs healthier, connecting people and reefs into one codependent system.

Lillian Thorne photoLillian Thorne

Major: History and Political Science

Faculty Mentor: Laura Prieto

Project: "Who Kindly Greet Me Home": Queer and Gendered Spaces in Settlement Houses, 1890-1930

Lilli Thorne is a senior history and political science student at Simmons University. Lilli's passion for women's history began in earnest during her Fall 2018 semester, when she took History 215: Women and Gender in the United States Before 1890, and began thinking on the impact of women in both public and private spaces. Her project, initiated in the summer of 2019 during the Summer Undergraduate Research Program at Simmons (SURPASs), reflects her interest in queer theory, and how it intersects with history and politics. While she worked on this independent project, she also served as the research fellow for a different project on Boston's West End, funded by the Council of Independent Colleges' Humanities Research for the Public Good program. She worked alongside a team of fellow undergraduate researchers using archives at Simmons and in the greater Boston community, including the West End Museum and the Boston City Archives. She is proud of both her work with her team, as well as "Who Kindly Greet Me Home" as her own endeavor. In her spare time, Lilli enjoys creating works of hand embroidery, spending time outdoors with her dog, and cooking with friends.

Abstract: This project reflects upon the creation of community space in settlement houses, particularly for working class women; these were institutions usually created by women in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century with the purpose of providing programming and safe lodging for mostly immigrant and working class populations. Building on the work of scholars like Estelle B. Freedman and Sarah Deutch on gender and sexuality, and Mina Carson and Allen Freeman Davis on the history of settlements, my project studies how class status intersected with gender and sexuality in the context of settlement houses in Boston and New York City, particularly at Denison House and Henry Street House. Queer histories already include the founders of these institutions, such Jane Addams and Lillian Wald. I explore how settlement houses built queer spaces, and how working class women had access to these spaces in addition to their middle class peers. Further, I analyze how settlement houses built women’s only spaces for working class women, in an era of exclusivity where no others existed.

The project interrogates queerness in a time before sexuality was used as an identity category. Therefore, it demands a reading of the silences in the records, because people simply would not write explicitly about queer relationships or activity. I must reckon with both what is present in the document, and what is purposefully absent. An analysis of women’s clubs, drama programs, and summer camps reveals both the presences and the silences in settlement house archives. Ultimately, I argue that settlement houses provided nurturing queer spaces to varying degrees depending on the location and staffing, but certainly served as pioneering women’s centered spaces.