By Pranali Dalvi

Visible Thinking 2013

Students explain their research to peers and faculty at Visible Thinking 2013 in the French Family Science Center. Photo credit: Pranali Dalvi


On April 19, Duke undergrads gathered in the French Family Science Center for Visible Thinking 2013.

The event showcases the exciting research undergraduates are doing in every discipline from the biological sciences to the humanities. For many students, it was also a celebration of several semesters and summers of hard work. Like seasoned scientists, students explained their research to their mentors, peers and prospective Dukies during the annual poster session.

Renata Dinamarco, a Trinity senior, studied the entrepreneurial preparedness of small businesses in Pembroke Pines, Florida.

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Renata Dinamarco, Trinity’13. Photo credit: Pranali Dalvi

People are moving to the newer, western front of the city, so the eastern portion of Pembroke Pines is being redeveloped. Many people believed business owners in the east were underprepared as compared to the west when it came to opening small businesses.

When Renata interviewed 55 small business owners, she found that there was no statistical difference between entrepreneurs in the east versus the west. But, she did find that business owners in the east were more likely to view the city government negatively. Renata’s study of the demographics of small business populations is important for making informed policy decisions.

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Christine Tsai, Trinity’14. Photo credit: Pranali Dalvi

Junior Christine Tsai studied the expression of gut-specific genes three days after fertilization in zebrafish. In a healthy developing embryo, epithelial cells line the internal organs.

To explore what genes are turned on and off during the development of the cells, Tsai compared gene expression from the gut cells to gene expression of cells from the entire body. Zebrafish have clear embryos that develop quickly, making them easy to study and use as a system to study genetics.

“I plan to continue conducting undergraduate research and know that the techniques and skills I have acquired and continue to develop through my research will further my understanding of processes in cell and molecular biology,” she said.

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Ben Finkel, Trinity’13. Photo credit: Pranali Dalvi

For his honors thesis in evolutionary anthropology, Ben Finkel worked in Dr. Brian Hare’s lab combining his interest in education outreach with his passion for conservation. Finkel’s project examines how portrayals of chimpanzees as either aggressive or affiliative can affect our conservation perception. Through his research, Finkel wanted to understand how media steers conservation beliefs. He found that people were less likely to promote conservation of chimanzees if they showed aggressive behaviors rather than affiliative behaviors.

For more from Visible Thinking, check out my video about senior Emily Ngan who studies the brain’s immune system cells and their role in addiction.