Marist Hosts 68th Annual Eastern Colleges Science Conference

POUGHKEEPSIE (April 9, 2014) – The Eastern Colleges Science Conference (ECSC), launched at Vassar College in 1947, returned to the Hudson River Valley for its 68th annual meeting at Marist earlier this month. ECSC is an association of primarily undergraduate colleges and universities whose main function is to stimulate interest in undergraduate research in the sciences and related fields and to provide a lively forum for the presentation of research papers.

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East Coast Science Conference poster session, photo credit: Kristin M. Dragos/Marist

"Science has certainly changed since 1947," said Dr. Neil Fitzgerald, associate professor of chemistry, assistant dean of science, and chair of the conference planning committee, "but the benefits of conducting research as an undergraduate has not. During their research work, conference participants undoubtedly experienced frustration, solved problems, matured, learned, and hopefully felt the joy of that 'eureka' moment. This was a great opportunity for them to communicate their results and share their experiences with others."

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East Coast Science Conference poster session, photo credit: Bob Lynch/Marist

Keynote speaker Bob Berman, the world’s most widely-read astronomer, spoke on "How we create the universe." Some of Berman's accolades include: a featured page in every issue of Discover and Astronomy magazines for the past 24 years; astronomy editor of the Old Farmers Almanac; long-running radio shows on NPR and guest appearances on such TV shows as "Today" and "Late Night with David Letterman." Berman is the author of nine books. The newest, published by Little Brown, is "ZOOM," which explores how the universe and its objects move. For a decade, starting in 1979, Berman ran the summer astronomy program at Yellowstone Park for the National Park Service and Yellowstone Institute. He was an adjunct professor of astronomy and physics at Marymount College from 1995-2000.

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Keynote speaker Bob Berman, photo credit: Bob Lynch/Marist

The day of presentations, talks, and poster sessions was capped by a banquet and awards ceremony at Christos Restaurant in Poughkeepsie.

"Marist is very pleased to have hosted the 68th Eastern Colleges Science Conference," said James W. DuMond, Jr., dean of the School of Science. "The program provided an excellent opportunity for students from Marist and other participating institutions to present their research and develop relationships with like-minded individuals from the region. Science does not occur in vacuum, so integrating research into the scientific community through the process of peer review is vital to the process."

Conference History

The first Eastern Colleges Science Conference (ECSC) was organized in 1947 by undergraduate Pauline Newman at Vassar College. The aim then, as now, was to stimulate interest in undergraduate research in the sciences and related fields and to provide a lively forum for the presentation of research papers. Pauline Newman received her bachelor's degree in chemistry and went on to receive a Ph.D. in chemistry from Yale. About 22 schools attended the first conference, and the theme was "Science, Philosophy and Society."

The constitution of the ECSC was ratified on April 24, 1948 at Union College in Schenectady NY, making the conference self-sustaining body.

In 1972 the Pennsylvania State University was named the repository for all official documents of the ECSC. Professor Stanley Shepherd was named the permanent secretary of ECSC. In 1980 Professor Shepherd stepped down and Professor Gerard O'Leary from Providence College was elected to the post. At the 35th annual conference a steering committee was established to assist in directing the activities of the ECSC.

In 1983 the ECSC was incorporated in Rhode Island and now operates with a Board of Directors, elected from faculty of the participating colleges and universities. In 1986 Professor Gerard O'Leary stepped down, and Professor Edward Gabriel of Lycoming College was elected Chair of ECSC. In 1995 Dr. Gabriel was succeeded by Professor Lance Evans of Manhattan College.

Over the years interest has increased in the conference and over 50 colleges and universities have attended this annual event. Over time the range of subject matter has also expanded and now covers computer science and behavioral and social sciences, as well as the original areas of biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics, and engineering.

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