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Senior Mona Shahbazi (New York, N.Y.), a neuroscience major, made a presentation titled “The Ultimate Science?” last weekend at the 16th annual National Conference on Undergraduate Research.

Among 34 Lafayette students invited to present at the conference, Shahbazi presented research involving issues of gender and science after being inspired by project mentor Elizabeth McMahon, professor of mathematics.

“I’m looking at the topic from many different angles,” says Shahbazi, who is minoring in health care and society. “This work examines a number of questions, including: Why are there so few women and minorities in science? How can you expand the field to include them? How will science benefit by having broadened the scope of issues it examines and being critiqued more by a more diverse group?”

Shahbazi finds the research has given her a perspective on issues that she never would have considered. For example, she has noticed the exclusive use of male pronouns in science books, and use of “physiological methods to explain gender differences, like citing brain size differences between females and males.”

“Mona’s research has raised her awareness,” says McMahon. “I think this work will really benefit her as she pursues a career in science. I believe she’ll take a stand and address what needs to be changed. I really see her as serving as a resource for other women.”

Shahbazi cites her mentor’s encouragement for helping her complete this project.

“Professor McMahon is very enthusiastic and passionate about this field, which helps me to push forward and keep searching and work through the difficulties,” she says.

She adds, “I plan on going to medical school, which is a continuation of my scientific interests. As a woman, this project obviously has implications for my life now and later on.”

A graduate of Hopewell Valley Central High School, Shahbazi is a resident adviser.

Nearly 400 Lafayette students have participated in NCUR, the only national conference dedicated to showcasing research by college undergraduates. More than 400 colleges and universities sent students to this year’s conference hosted by the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater.

Categorized in: Academic News