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A Look At The Big Student Ideas Behind BCTalks 2015

Members of the BC community gathered Sunday to hear from seven student speakers at the 2015 BCTalks on issues ranging from induced pluripotent stem cell research to the philosophical illusion of self. Here’s a breakdown of the big ideas behind this installment of the series.



Maggie Aasen | A&S ’15, Biology
“How to Make a Beating Heart out of a Piece of your Skin: An Introduction to IPSCs”

A senior who has been doing biology research since her freshman year at the University, Maggie Aasen, one of seven speakers at this year’s BC Talks and A&S ’15, addressed the audience Sunday on induced pluripotent stem cells (IPSCs)—adult cells that have been genetically reprogrammed to behave like stem cells and thus evade embryonic stem cell research controversy—and BC’s current research into and development of IPSC technology.

Aasen addressed the ample medical applications presented by IPSCs, some of which being their use as personalized models for researching and testing drug therapies and genetic diseases. “We don’t have to have these long clinical trials anymore, we don’t have to test things on animals … so obviously you can see that this type of technology is really innovative.” She spoke about the University’s hopes to collaborate with larger institutions throughout the city to contribute to this significant, timely research. In addition to her IPSC research, Aasen is currently writing her senior thesis on environmental and health effects of United States agricultural policies and subsidies.


Brittany Burke | LSOE ’15, Elementary Education & Perspectives on Spanish America, Philosophy
“ZAP! A Reflection on Indigenous Politics and Identity in Latin America”

Made aware of the joys and injustices of the indigenous Latin American people through living in solidarity with those of Guatemala and Chile, Brittany Burke, LSOE ’15, chose to speak at this year’s BC Talks on the issue of indigeneity, analyzing the complicated relationship between indigenous groups, their respective domestic governments, and international governments through her own spoken word poetry.

In her talk on Sunday, Burke examined the differing, multifaceted conceptualizations and overlapping characteristics of Latin American indigeneity and who, or what, constitutes the indigenous. “For indigenous people, ironically, a universal definition of indigeneity, while seemingly allowing these people to unify against the governments that repress them, actually restricts their mobilization and causes them to be further marginalized,” she said in her speech. She argued that often the ways in which indigenous people project themselves to the surrounding world indicate the type and extent of support and funding for which they will be eligible based upon predetermined qualifications as established by NGOs and international governments—which both constrict cultural expression and enable marginalized groups to survive.


Danielle Dalton | CSOM ’16, Marketing
“The Overlooked Power of Emotional Intelligence”

In the wake of last year’s BC Venture Competition and after launching an Indiegogo campaign, Danielle Dalton, a speaker at Sunday’s BC Talks and CSOM ’16, founded Molly Miller—a women’s clothing and accessory company that donates a portion of its profits to organizations promoting and advocating for positive body image—and recognized the oft-overlooked significance of high emotional intelligence in entrepreneurship.

“During your four years at BC, you’re not just learning different [things] about different academic areas—you’re also learning a lot about yourself,” Dalton said about her initial interest in the BC Talks in an email. “It’s easy to lose sight of that, though, in the middle of grades, searching for internships/jobs, and everything else that takes place on campus. I think personal growth is something we should value more, but that’s not always a conversation that takes place on campus. So, I decided to say something.” While design, coding, and various technical skills retain great clout within the sphere of entrepreneurial startups, Dalton argued that emotional intelligence goes largely unacknowledged despite its relevance in the workplace. Within her speech, she discussed not only the importance of high emotional intelligence, but ways to improve upon and increase it so as to achieve success.


Amy McDonnell | A&S ’15, Psychology and Faith, Peace, and Justice
“How Neuroscience Can Save the Crisis in America’s Prisons”

By admitting the use of brain scans in the courtroom to indicate abnormal brain functioning, Amy McDonnell, one of the BC Talks student speakers and A&S ’15, proposed that legislators could establish a more effective protocol for sentencing and treating mentally ill patients found not guilty by reason of insanity. McDonnell asserted that remedying the fact that more mentally ill patients live within American prisons than in psychiatric hospitals through this idea would benefit all parties: the offender, the victim, and the justice system.

Due to her passions for neuroscience and its ties into all aspects of the world, McDonnell spoke about neurocriminality and possible changes to the justice system. “I chose to participate in BC Talks because I’m lucky enough to have found my passion at BC,” McDonnell said in an email. “I’m sure a lot of us have. But what I think is widely overlooked at BC is sharing this passion with other students. We go to class, we take tests, we write papers, and then we want to be done. BC Talks is a great program designed to bring these topics up as a platform for discussion.” Within her talk, she analyzed whether methods in place allow officials to prove an individual insane accurately, noting procedural flaws and suggesting that brain scans would provide more definitive diagnoses. Following graduation, McDonnell hopes to pursue higher education in forensic psychology.


Alex Moscovitz | A&S ’15, Environmental Geoscience and Sociology
“Urban Agriculture and STEM Education”

Originally inspired to speak at Sunday’s BC Talks after working on a topical book with G. Michael Barnett—an associate professor specializing in urban agricultural education and STEM research within the Lynch School at the University—Alex Moscovitz, A&S ’15, discussed the local food movement, community food security, and urban agricultural youth programs, and she discussed their contributions to STEM education and diversity.

Moscovitz addressed the audience on pertinent issues of social and environmental justice, public health, urban planning, and economic development, and she highlighted various programs and organizations participating in the movement to bring fresh, local sustainability to urban communities experiencing food insecurity through farmers markets and neighborhood, school, and rooftop gardens. “Since I’ve become familiar with the subject through writing the chapter I thought I would try to give a talk too to practice public speaking and teach people about the interesting things urban agriculture organizations are doing,” she said in an email. Following her undergraduate studies, she will pursue her master’s degree in urban and environmental planning.


Lucas Perry | A&S ’16, Philosophy
“The Self is an Illusion”

Interested in contemporary, philosophical issues such as the philosophy of science, futurism, and the philosophy of the mind—and pursuing research in transhumanism and consequentialism—Lucas Perry, one of the seven BC Talks student speakers and A&S ’16, addressed the audience April 12 on the illusion of self—and the importance that one dispel it.

“I decided to speak at BC Talks because the illusion of self is a pervasive delusion that affects every aspect of our lives,” Perry said in an email. “It affects how we understand ourselves, how we relate with the universe and others, and how we experience life itself. How can we live lives that are fulfilling and noble if we do not understand our very nature?” Within his speech, he analyzed the implications of the pronoun “I,” descanting on the need to understand the fundamental nature of the self and reject the many, superficial misconceptions to which it is attached such as name, geographical origin, or various interests. Using an array of tangible examples—such as a table and a wagon—Perry made his complex topic more accessible to the audience. “If humanity is to see farther than it has before, then we must see through this illusion of self,” he said.


Angie Zablotny | CSON ’15
“Conversations in Menstruation: South African Schoolgirls’ Experiences as Expressed Through Body Mapping”

Following her study abroad in Durban, South Africa during the spring semester of her junior year, Angie Zablotny, CSON ’15, began to question why menstruation, a natural, healthy, vital part of life for women, accompanies negative or embarrassing connotations worldwide. Zablotny spoke on April 12 about her research on community health in South Africa, and about the topic of body mapping.

Initially drawn to the idea of giving a talk in an effort to share the stories and experiences of those she met in South Africa, Zablotny discussed women’s health in her speech—an important and multifaceted subject around which she aims to increase the conversation. “My research was about creating a safe space to talk about women’s health and called to normalize these conversations,” Zablotny said in an email. “It only seemed fair that I follow through and speak openly and honestly in my own home, just as so many young girls in South Africa did with me.” Within the speech, she discussed the universal female experience of menstruation, and the inherent problems in its common perception as evidenced by her research abroad: “We were females, and therefore we shared the common experience of menstruation, a largely unspoken and uncomfortable topic both in South Africa and the United States.”

Featured Image by Arthur Bailin / Heights Editor

Included Photos Courtesy of Pat Swearingen

April 13, 2015

ONE COMMENT ON THIS POST To “A Look At The Big Student Ideas Behind BCTalks 2015”

  1. So many great ideas and so many enlightened students! These young minds are the future of the country, I believe that most of the young people that graduate every year gained important knowledge and practiced skills that will help them to success in life. There are some students who can’t fulfill assignments on their own and are appealing to essay writing service in order to get expert essay support. But that doesn’t mean that they are unintelligent or lazy; just like Einstein once said “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”