YURA Fall Symposium Presents Undergraduate Research

Yale undergraduates on Saturday presented research on a wide range of topics to visitors in the Humanities Quadrangle courtyard.

Carter DeWees

11:31 PM, 07 Nov 2021

Contributing journalist

Carter Dewees, collaborating photographer

The Yale Undergraduate Research Association’s Fall Symposium took place on Saturday, with more than a dozen undergraduate students presenting their research to visitors in the courtyard of the Humanities Quadrangle.

The mission of the symposium was to “celebrate and reward excellence in student research,” according to YURA. The subjects on the posters placed in the courtyard ranged from the analysis of satellite images in California to translations of ancient Roman texts.

At the symposium, Kennedy Bennett ’22 presented his research – an in-depth analysis of Charleston newspaper archives titled “Magnifying Marginalized Voices: Black Organizing in the Workplace”.

“[Reporters] question the police, the factory management, the white union leaders and characterize black women in an animalistic way, and somehow downplay, trivialize the reasons they were on strike, ”Bennett said.

Bennett, a history student, focused on Charleston, South Carolina, in the 1930s and 1940s. She combed through the newspaper archives of the Charleston News, The Courier, and the Charleston Evening Post, making research into the history of work organization in tobacco and textile factories, two industries that heavily employed black women in the 1930s and 1940s.

In 1933, workers at the Charleston bagging plant went on strike, taking advantage of policies put in place by the National Recovery Administration (NRA) program of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In response, the bagging plant has increased its workforce and reduced workers’ hours, Bennett said.

“Why [Black women in Charleston] organized was the same as their peers, but the way they organized was different, ”Bennett’s poster said.

According to Bennett, she identified the differences by filling in the information gaps in the articles she read because of their strong bias towards union leaders and the police.

Raymond Zhao ’22, a graduate in Earth and Planetary Sciences, studied the scale of solar farm production in the Imperial Valley in California and its effects on the region. Using satellite images collected every two years since 2011, Zhao analyzed the construction of a solar farm in the southwestern region of the valley and the effect it had on the region. One of the main lessons from his analysis is that solar farms were built on agricultural land, which led to a decline in agricultural production in the southwestern part of the valley. Zhao used a Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) for this analysis.

On his poster, Zhao showed a decrease in NDVI over two-year intervals as solar panels were built.

“If you look at it regionally, there is already evidence of change,” Zhao said. “For example, in the southern region where most of the signs are located, the NDVI has started to decline, which means there is less agriculture.”

He found that 89 percent of solar farms built in the region replaced farmland, and solar farms were responsible for 17 percent of the decrease in farmland in the region. Zhao also analyzed the temperature data, noting an increase in temperatures where the panels were located. Zhao explained that farms can be extensive, in this case about 15 kilometers wide. Zhao concluded that more research is needed on the effects of solar farm development on land use, vegetation productivity, and land surface temperature in the Imperial Valley.

Charnice Hoegnifioh ’24 researched the history of makeup in a program called “Summer Research Opportunities at Harvard” with Harvard professor Irene Peirano Garrison. Hoegnifioh’s presentation, titled “The Price of Beauty is Pain: Makeup and Women’s Health in the Roman Empire”, explores the origins of makeup and its place in ancient societies.

“For me, [makeup] is like a form of self-expression, and I love the artistic element that goes with it, ”said Hoegnifioh. “However, I know makeup hasn’t always been a form of self-expression for women and makeup has been used for thousands of years.”

Hoegnifioh’s interest in research is based on her academic interest as a pre-med student as well as her gender identity. She translated ancient texts, discovering ancient uses of cosmetics.

Hoegnifioh’s analysis centered on old perspectives on the makeup of male authors. Makeup was seen as a tool for women to hide their characteristics external to society and to men, she found, raising questions about their moral integrity among former male authors. Hoegnifioh explained that this language is linked to suggestions of witchcraft among ancient male authors. White lead was known as a toxic material in ancient times, but women still applied it to their faces to conform, a trend which Hoegnifioh says continues to this day.

“Women still use these poisons [PFAs] on their faces as makeup, and these ideals and conceptions of beauty and the ability to obscure and conceal your imperfections are valued in relation to the health and safety of women, ”said Hoegnifioh.

The Yale Undergraduate Research Association was founded in 2015.

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