President-Elect Beilock to Keynote Wetterhahn Symposium

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The undergraduate science research symposium will be held May 24 at the Hanover Inn.

Sian Leah Beilock
President-elect Sian Leah Beilock, a cognitive neuroscientist, will speak on the topic of academic performance under stress. (Photo by Tim Ryan Smith/Avenue 5 Films)

President-elect Sian Leah Beilock will deliver the keynote address at the Karen E. Wetterhahn Science Symposium, one of Dartmouth’s leading STEM events for undergraduates.

The undergraduate science symposium, now in its 31st year, was named posthumously in honor of the late chemistry professor, a pioneering educator, administrator, and co-founder of the Women in Science Project at Dartmouth. This year’s event will be held on May 24 at the Hanover Inn.

“Like Karen Wetterhahn, President-elect Beilock is an educator, an institutional leader, a passionate advocate for students, and a woman in the sciences. I can’t think of a better way to welcome her to the Dartmouth community,” says Margaret Funnell, director of Undergraduate Advising and Research.

Beilock, a cognitive scientist whose research focuses on understanding performance anxiety and devising strategies to shine under pressure, will speak on the topic of academic performance under stress.

“All of us—not just students in school—can feel anxiety in high-pressure situations. It turns out that understanding what happens in the brain and body in stressful situations can help us all perform up to our potential,” says Beilock.

Beilock also says she is pleased to be speaking at an event honoring the legacy of Wetterhahn, who died in 1997 following a laboratory accident involving a highly toxic mercury compound.

“Karen Wetterhahn was a mentor to many women interested in devoting their lives to science, and helped develop a program that Dartmouth continues to build upon each year,” says Beilock, who takes office at Dartmouth in July.

Beilock will be speaking to a cohort of students who were interrupted in their learning and in their socialization by the COVID-19 pandemic, says Morgan Hamilton, assistant director of UGAR. Hamilton believes that hearing from someone who is an expert on learning and anxiety could have more meaning to this particular group.

Following the keynote address, undergraduates will present posters highlighting their scientific research and compete for several awards, including the Christopher Reed Science Competition, the Women in Science Project Sophomore Scholarships, and the Library Research in the Sciences Prize.

“The poster session is the one event of the year where students have the opportunity to share their research with the entire campus community,” says Funnell. “The level of energy and the depth of intellectual engagement evident amongst the student presenters is palpable.”

Harini Barath