University of Delaware
UD alumna Gina Scarnati addresses the crowd as the symposium speaker.

Senior Thesis Symposium

Research, mentorship celebrated at 30th annual Senior Thesis Symposium


12:59 p.m., May 8, 2013--Gina Scarnati is forever indebted to the University of Delaware. After all, it was where she learned how to make blood. 

Scarnati, a UD graduate who has constructed headpieces for characters in The Hunger Games, True Blood, Captain America and many other productions, discussed the importance of interdisciplinary training at the annual Senior Thesis Symposium on Saturday, May 5, in the Perkins Student Center. 

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“It’s easy to underestimate the amount of science that goes into what I do,” said Scarnati, noting that it took knowledge of painting, dying and scientific trial and error to make different textures and colors of fake blood for True Blood.

Scarnati spoke to undergraduate researchers and their mentors from a variety of disciplines at the 30th annual Senior Thesis Symposium, where seniors shared oral and poster presentations with members of the community.

Each presenter at the symposium is a candidate for either the Degree with Distinction or the Honors Degree with Distinction.

In the East Lounge and Art Gallery rooms, students displayed large posters and explained research they had spent the last year – or longer – conducting. 

Whether majoring in sociology or chemical engineering, wildlife conservation or English education, every senior thesis candidate learned the nuances of conducting research and communicating their efforts. 

Anna Davis, a double major in English and psychology, researched the use of Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) on children with behavioral problems. PCIT focuses on the relationship between children and their caretakers, she explained. 

“I wanted to learn more about the therapists who use Parent-Child Interaction Therapy and what's hurting and hindering them,” she said. 

Davis, who defended her thesis a few days earlier, credits the undergraduate research experience with preparing her for the next step.

“I’m not sure I would have gotten into grad school without it,” she said. 

James Delorme, a neuroscience major, is “super excited” to attend graduate school in Switzerland where he will continue to develop the research skills he garnered during his study on the effects of alcohol on rats. 

“Writing about methods and research is something I never had to do before so it has been interesting to see how it works,” he said of the research process. 

Down the hall, other senior thesis candidates gave oral presentations and answered questions from spectators. 

All the presenters have been enrolled in either University Studies 401 or 402 and began submitting applications for their thesis last May, according to Lauren Barsky, associate director of the Undergraduate Research Program.

“It’s a great chance for them to show off some of their work,” said Barsky about the Senior Thesis Symposium. “As the people who conducted the research, they are the experts on a specific topic.”

The symposium also provided the UD community with a venue to interact with the researchers. 

“It benefits the public because it’s a great learning opportunity and it’s important to know what’s going on around campus and what kind of research is taking place,” said Barsky. 

In addition to Scarnati, Interim Provost Nancy Brickhouse and Lynnette Overby, director of UD’s Office of Undergraduate Research and Experiential Learning, addressed the attendees, emphasizing the rich history of undergraduate research at the University. 

Overby also announced a new award for the Outstanding Senior Thesis Mentor in honor of the 30th anniversary celebration. Eric Furst, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, received the award for his excellent mentorship. 

Scarnati, who created her own major in theatre production and costume design at UD, echoed the celebration of mentorship, thanking Andrea Barrier, associate professor of theatre, for her guidance. 

For Scarnati, the interdisciplinary nature of her studies at UD has truly facilitated her success.

Making a four-foot origami headpiece for a contestant in The Hunger Games required creative thinking and a myriad of skills from Scarnati. 

She had to find a material that would stand up to sweat and ironing, would look appealing in close-up shots and would stay on during a chariot ride. 

“What I learned in theatre is not just how to make things, but how they work and how they work on the body,” she said. 

Although she was cautioned against being a jack-of-all-trades, Scarnati said the variety of courses she took at UD prepared her for the unexpected nature of the business. 

“You will use everything you ever learn,” she said.

Article by Kelley Bregenzer

Photos by Kevin Quinlan


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