Top postgraduate science communicators

20 September 2013

Congratulations to the winners of this year’s Faculty of Science Poster Competition and thanks to all the students from across the faculty who took the opportunity to showcase their research in our annual competition.

Charlotte Connell (Sport & Exercise Science) won top prize for her poster on the first study to show that caffeine alters human vision

Charlotte’s research examined “brain fatigue” following strenuous exercise, a phenomenon we know very little about. A moderate dose of caffeine, equivalent to two strong cups of coffee, was found to prevent the slowing of eye movements that occurred during exercise – a sign of exercise-induced brain fatigue. This might have implications for human performance, with caffeine increasing the speed at which the visual system operates and takes in changes in our surroundings.

Second place in the competition went to Yvette Lamb (Psychology) for her poster on research examining the effect of maternal stress during pregnancy on children’s cognitive performance into mid-childhood and early adolescence.

Yvette’s analysis of data from the Auckland Birthweight Collaborative Study showed that at 7 and 11 years of age, children whose mothers experienced low stress during pregnancy had significantly higher IQ scores than those with high antenatal stress. Her study also examined the role that a gene called Catechol-O-Methyltransferase (COMT) has in determining how susceptible children are to the impact of antenatal stress. It showed that a particular variant of the COMT gene may mediate susceptibility to the effects of stress.

Aleea Devitt (Psychology) was awarded third place for her poster describing research into the factors that influence “memory scramble”.

She explained that remembering our past is like assembling a jigsaw puzzle – all the details must be found and combined in the correct way. When this process goes wrong, and a detail from one memory is incorporated into another, a so-called “memory conjunction error” is created. Autobiographical memory conjunction errors can cause problems for daily recall and eye witness testimonies. Based on memories created in the lab, Aleea’s research showed that we are most likely to make a conjunction error when an imagined event is plausible and has only one altered detail.

The following students received high distinction awards for their posters:
•  David Huijser – Statistics
•  Simon Ashforth – Chemical Sciences
•  Amber Williams – Chemical Sciences
•  Jennifer Creaser – Mathematics
•  Julie Kho – Chemical Sciences

Students who received merit awards included:
•  Stefanie Hittmeyer – Mathematics
•  Hande Karaosmanoglu – Chemical Sciences
•  Wan-Ting Chen – Chemical Sciences
•  Arie Spyksma – Marine Science
•  Omer Javed Chaudhary – Chemical Sciences
•  Catherine Choi – Statistics
•  Eletra Williams – Chemical Sciences
•  Sweta Anantharaman – Psychology
•  Cameron McLean – Computer Science
•  Katie Sharp – Mathematics
•  Alice Baranyovits – Biological Sciences
•  Shunjie Jacky Zhen – Computer Science