WestConn Research Day showcases student projects on May 12
Harvard vision attention researcher Jeremy Wolfe to deliver keynote lecture

DANBURY, CONN. — Western Connecticut State University will showcase student research and present a public lecture by a pioneering researcher in the field of visual attention at the seventh annual WestConn Research Day (WRD) on Thursday, May 12.

The WRD 2011 program will feature a poster exhibition of research projects conducted by WCSU students in a wide range of academic disciplines during the current academic year. The exhibition will be open for public viewing from 2:45 to 4:30 p.m. in the Science Building Atrium on the university’s Midtown campus, 181 White St. in Danbury.

WCSU President James W. Schmotter will offer opening remarks and Harvard Medical School Professor of Ophthalmology and Radiology Dr. Jeremy Wolfe will deliver the keynote lecture at 2 p.m. in Science Building Room 125. Wolfe has received international recognition for his ground-breaking research exploring how human vision and the human brain manage complex tasks ranging from security scanning at airports to pathology diagnoses from CAT scan and MRI imaging. He will discuss findings from that research in a talk titled, “Dancing Chickens and iPods Stored in Honey: Why Visual Attention Research Matters.” Admission will be free and the public is invited to attend.

Dr. Roy Stewart, WCSU interim provost and vice president for academic affairs, will deliver remarks and present the annual Provost’s Prize at the WRD closing session at 4:30 p.m. in Science Building Room 125. The prize, funded by the Office of the Provost, is awarded for an exemplary project by a student or students who will be continuing their studies at WestConn in the 2011-12 academic year. The award will contribute $1,000 toward student expenses for presentation of an original research project at a professional conference.

Dr. Susan Maskel, professor of biological and environmental sciences and cochair of the WRD 2011 organizing committee, observed the annual event provides an important reminder that students are engaged in research in all fields of academic study at Western.

“Even in times of hardship, research is essential for economic progress and personal development,” Maskel remarked. “We need to have people who know how to conduct proper and rigorous research for the benefit of the economy and society. We must continue to teach the next generation of researchers.”

A WRD seminar and luncheon at the Student Center immediately preceding the public program will feature student presentations of several projects to invited guests from WCSU faculty and staff and the Greater Danbury business and civic community. The 33 student research projects accepted for participation in WRD 2011 represent a wide range of academic departments at WCSU, including biology, chemistry, psychology, management information systems, communication, world languages, history and social sciences. Projects were approved by the student’s faculty adviser prior to submission to the WRD organizing committee for inclusion in the program.

Wolfe’s lecture will be cohosted by WRD 2011 and the Connecticut State University Psychology Day program, also scheduled for May 12. Psychology students from Western and other universities of the CSU System will share their research with peers and faculty during CSU Psychology Day at WCSU, participating in poster and oral presentations of projects completed during the 2010-11 academic year.

In his talk, Wolfe will explain how the brain and visual system adapt to the challenge of processing and prioritizing an abundance of information beyond their capacity to absorb in entirety.

“To deal with this limitation, you have attentional mechanisms that select some stimuli while largely ignoring others,” he observed. “I will show some of the dramatic consequences of this process of selection, and I will discuss how these phenomena play a role in important tasks, from the airport to the doctor’s office.”

Recipient of a Ph.D. in psychology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Wolfe has been a member of the Harvard Medical School faculty since 1991 and serves as a faculty affiliate of the school’s Division of Sleep Medicine. As director of the Visual Attention Lab at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Cambridge, Mass., he has established one of the world’s leading centers for research investigation of the neural processes of vision recognition and retention. In addition to basic research on various aspects of visual attention, the lab has conducted extensive studies designed to explore practical applications of research findings to real-world visual search tasks such as airport screenings of baggage and passengers and identification of disease markers in diagnostic imaging.

Assistant Professor of Management Information Systems Dr. Emilio Collar, cochair of the WRD 2011 committee, emphasized that the diversity of projects displayed serves to demonstrate that research is not limited to laboratory studies in the physical sciences. “Many of our students become interested in areas with which they were previously unfamiliar because they participated in WestConn Research Day,” he said. “It’s not just about research in the lab, but also about how we apply research findings in the real world.”

WCSU sponsors for WRD 2011 include the Office of the Provost and the Office of Admissions. Additional support has been provided by the Office of the President and by University Publications and Design.

“We’re thankful to the university administration for supporting student research at WestConn,” Maskel said. “It gives the students a wonderful experience that helps them as they move forward, whether to seek a job or pursue an advanced degree at graduate and professional schools.”

In addition to Maskel and Collar, members of the WRD 2011 organizing committee include Associate Professor of Nursing and Chair of the Nursing Department Dr. Karen Crouse, Associate Professor of Art Marjorie Portnow, Professor of Nursing Dr. Catherine Rice, and University Archivist and Special Colllections Librarian Brian Stevens.

For more information, contact Maskel at (203) 837-8799 or maskels@wcsu.edu, or the Office of University Relations at (203) 837-8486.

Western Connecticut State University offers outstanding faculty in a range of quality academic programs. Our diverse university community provides students an enriching and supportive environment that takes advantage of the unique cultural offerings of Western Connecticut and New York. Our vision: To be an affordable public university with the characteristics of New England’s best small private universities.



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