From left, Cassandra LaChance ’16, Jenna O'Connor ’16, Joelle Dumont ’16, Andrea Fachini ’16, Zachary Feury ’16, Katie Glaubitz ’17 with her twin sister who attends Mass. Art, Annie Gagnon ’17, Amanda LeBarron ’16 and Daniel Heinen ’18 attended the COPLAC Northeast Regional Meeting at Ramapo College of New Jersey in Mahwah, N.J. Jonathan Couper ’15 (not pictured) also attended.

Students Attend COPLAC Meeting


Ten students this past semester presented the results of their undergraduate research at the COPLAC (Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges) Northeast Regional Meeting, where they also had an opportunity to discuss their work with their peers and faculty members from other institutions.

Cassandra LaChance ’16, a double major in history and sociology from Adams, Mass., presented a paper that discussed how Martin Luther King Jr. became the face of the Civil Rights Movement after he gave his speech at the March on Washington.

“I focused on how the ‘big six’ behind the March – each of whom represented a different group present at the Movement – helped King move forward in becoming a person that many people view today as the ‘Father of the Civil Rights Movement,’” she said.

The opportunity to stand up in front of a group of people to present the paper, LaChance said, helped her to gain confidence in her public speaking abilities, “which will be important in my future career path.” 

Annie Gagnon ’16, a biology major from Seekonk, Mass., agreed.

“Seeing other students present their research has helped me improve my presentation skills and made me more interested in incorporating research into my plans for graduate school and my future career,” she said.

Gagnon’s poster, “Exploring the Genetic Mechanisms of Exfoliation Syndrome and Glaucoma,” examined the mechanisms of glaucoma and the development of new treatments and medical technologies.

She became involved in the scientific research due to her interest in pursuing a career that involves human genetics.

“My research was performed at the Jackson Laboratory’s Summer Student Program in Bar Harbor, Maine,” Gagnon explained. “My project focused on testing potential mouse models for exfoliation syndrome by performing clinical exams and performing exome sequencing and genotyping to look for novel genes that cause exfoliation syndrome.

“My project concluded with a list of potential genes that will need to be studied further, and new data on further development of a mouse model for exfoliative glaucoma,” she added.

Like Gagnon, biology major Andrea Fachini ’16 of Cave Junction, Ore., presented a poster. Her research looked at bacteria that live in the bodies of the sea anemone Aiptasia pallida, and how those bacteria interact with other – possibly pathogenic – bacteria.  

“We were able to process 29 samples of DNA harvested from pure cultures of bacteria obtained from the bodies of the sea anemones,” Fachini explained. “From these 29 samples, we identified 14 unique species of bacteria. Antimicrobial assay revealed one clear instance of inhibition of a possible pathogen by the identified bacteria, which supports the hypothesis that the normal flora of the anemones help to keep them healthy.” 

Besides enjoying a great time at the conference, Fachini said the trip provided a good opportunity to become better acquainted with some of her classmates and the professors who accompanied them: Dr. Graziana Ramsden, professor of modern languages; Dr. Christopher Himes, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program manager; Dr. Ann Billetz, chair of MCLA’s biology department; and Dr. Sarah Herrick, assistant professor of biology.

In addition, Fachini said, “Doing research has helped me to become comfortable in the lab and to hone my lab skills, and learn things I would not have had the opportunity to learn otherwise.”