For 25 years, the Graduate Interdisciplinary Forum (IDF) has showcased fantastic students with groundbreaking research.
Dr. Frank Einhellig, provost, started IDF when he was dean of the Graduate College. On its 25th anniversary, it is being renamed the Frank Einhellig Interdisciplinary Forum.
Einhellig’s dedication to the event and the exemplary research performed by students showcases what IDF is all about.
The event is May 5 in the Plaster Student Union Ballroom. It begins at 8 a.m.
Keslie Naffa-Wack’s research is just one of many projects that will be on display.
White-nose syndrome (WNS) is killing millions of bats. Fungus builds up on their bodies as they hibernate and causes serious side effects like dehydration and weight loss, which eventually leads to death.
The bats Naffa-Wack works with, big brown bats, are resistant to the fugus.
“We are trying to find what makes big brown bats different; what is it that makes this species so resilient? How can our findings be applied to other species that are suffering,” Naffa-Wack said.
Bats have an incredible effect on the economy. They are a natural pest-control because of the insects they eat. Bats also pollinate produce crops, like agave. Because of this, bats are worth about $22 billion economically.
With Naffa-Wack’s research, there is a chance the bat population will be restored.
Naffa-Wack does her research in the lab of Dr. Thomas Tomasi, professor of biology.
“IDF is a great way to spread the word about bats in general,” Naffa-Wack said. “Exposing people of different academic backgrounds to bats is extremely important. I feel as if informing the public of your research and how it affects their lives is the responsibility of every student.”
It is this type of rigorous research that sustains the IDF.
“Dr. Frank Einhellig, then dean of the Graduate College, started the IDF in 1994 because he recognized the importance of showcasing the stellar research being conducted by our graduate students,” said Dr. Julie Masterson, associate provost and dean of the Graduate College. “The IDF started with seven oral presentations and now includes just short of 200 students presenting their work in platform talks, posters and exhibits. Some of the talks are even done virtually because the student researchers did their degrees online or they are off campus for internship or practicum experiences.
“This event, along with commencement, is a high point for graduate education because all of us get to see the efforts of students and their faculty members come to fruition,” Masterson added. “It is fitting indeed that it be named for the visionary who likely expected that the event would someday become the impressive venue that it is.”