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Truth and Thinking Matters

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Truth and Thinking Matters

by Heather Roberts, USM Public Affairs intern


On April 20th, the University of Southern Maine held a Thinking Matters symposium where students show off their research and their service to the community. Thinking Matters is a time when people can learn about how health can affect attractiveness, how oceanic viruses can help other life in the sea, or how an absent chemical group on DNA can have dire consequences for your child's health.

At 8 a.m. Thinking Matters began. Students from Southern Maine Community College (SMCC), Central Maine Community College (CMCC), and Central Maine Medical Center (CMMC), and of course, USM, began pinning their posters up and readying themselves to explain their research.

President Ron Cantor of SMCC and President Glenn Cummings of USM welcomed everyone to Thinking Matters 2018.

"There is nothing better than bringing the best of University of Southern Maine together with the best of Southern Maine Community College," said Cantor. "And we are doing that more and more all the time. Together we can accomplish anything!"

"We asked a question what matters? Truth does matter," said Cummings. "Actually what you are doing today matters -- you are presenting great knowledge and you are displaying great USM work ethic."

Hannah Waugh, an SMCC student, studied cri-du-chat syndrome. Cri-du-chat or cry-of-the-cat is a genetic disorder that affects a person's intellect, speech and motor skills. She found in a recent study an important chemical structure was absent at specific sites on DNA of a person with cri-du-chat syndrome.

According to the literature, the same genetic irregularity in cri-du-chat syndrome is similar to Down syndrome, Turner syndrome and Klinefelter syndrome.

Emily Haggett, a SMCC student, studied oceanic viruses and how they contribute to the ocean. According to the literature, oceanic viruses are critical to the environment. These viruses release phosphorus and nitrogen into the ocean for other sea organisms that use those nutrients for important molecules such are genetic material and proteins.

Rachelle Cormier, an SMCC student, did a project on how the defects of sperm lead to male infertility. She found that the mutations give sperm a short, coiled or absent tail, making the journey to the ovum difficult or impossible.

Two USM students, Zachery Tidd and Sharon Mann, showed off their research about microbial ecosystems of plastics found at Willard Beach in South Portland.

"Researchers injected bacteria into mealworms," said Mann. "They found that the same bacteria they injected into mealworms can eat through Styrofoam."

It's important to find bacteria that can eat plastic. According to NASA, about 8 million metric tons of plastic ends up in our ocean. Mann and Tidd also found that plastics can often transfer bacteria to humans and fish.

During the day's Thinking Matters events, another important event took place. April 20 marked the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting in Colorado. At 10 a.m. students and visitors at USM filed into Hannaford Hall in Abromson to participate in the walkout for gun safety.

The Maine Gun Safety Coalition partnered with USM to provide a space to educate students and visitors during the Thinking Matters symposium.

"If we are going to call BS on the gun violence in schools," said Omar Andrews, a Marine veteran and Student Veterans of America chapter president of the Husky Veterans student organization at USM, "We need to call BS on the way that police are trained. We need to call BS on the laws that we enforce."

"We need to call BS on the person who said we need to arm teachers," said Andrews. "Why don't we pay them?" 

Whether it be a research piece, an experiment, or a guide to scientific studies, students at Thinking Matters, though their hard work and diligence, reveal truths we may not know about. Research on cri-du-chat syndrome may reveal more about other genetic disorders. Studying marine microbes such are bacteria and viruses may tell us more about their impact on us. As President Cummings said: Truth does matter.


Article by Heather Roberts, intern, USM Office of Public Affairs and student in Communications and Media Studies
Photos of SMCC student Hannah Waugh; USM students Zachary Tidd and Sharon Mann (right); Omar Andrews by Heather Roberts