And We’re Off!

Hello researchers!

I expected to complete my two week project investigating Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in June, but I could not give up the opportunity to stay at William and Mary when I was given the opportunity to do ten weeks of research in my year-round Biology collaboration lab.

For the last ten weeks, I have been looking at the effect of temporal methyl-mercury on the corticosterone stress response of zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata).  Dr. Bradley and Dr. Cristol, both of the W&M Biology department, were my mentors for this project as we tried to see if the stress response of the birds was different when they were exposed to mercury between days 1-50 or between days 51-100. I also worked in Dr. Saha’s lab looking to see if there is a developmental delay in zebra finch embryos exposed to mercury through their parents. Neither project is complete, but I believe that I have made good headway as we start the fall semester.

Although these projects were not directly related to my Freshman Monroe topic, I learned a lot about research while working on them. I have realized that two weeks is a short time to truly understand a topic. With that in mind, my previously posted abstract may be too narrow. In the abstract,  I wrote about my desire to understand how the presence of MSF affects the perceptions of refugees on Westernization. While I am interested in this idea, very little data exists on the feelings of refugees since they are such a difficult group to safely and effectively study.

After spending a significant amount of time thinking about how to solve the data problem, I have decided to broaden my topic. At the core, I want to understand if MSF presence has an understudied secondary effect on peace in addition to its main goal of providing medical care to the most dangerous parts of the world. Can humanitarian organizations that maintain neutrality still promote global peace? Hopefully time will tell.

To start, I will be reading the book Evaluating Peace Operations by Paul F. Diehl and Daniel Druckman.