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Campus celebrates Darwin

Tess Civantos | Friday, February 13, 2009

Charles Darwin has been dead for 127 years, but over 80 Notre Dame students and faculty members celebrated his 200th birthday with a party and poetry slam event Thursday night.

Professor Hope Hollocher of the biology department organized the event, which was sponsored by both the biology department and Notre Dame’s Environmental Research Center.

“The biology department hadn’t organized anything fun for the ‘Darwin at Notre Dame’ series, and his birthday was still open, so we planned this,” Hollocher said.

The audience drank tea and munched on scones while 23 students and Hollocher’s seven-year-old daughter performed the poems they had written.

Hollocher helped judge the poetry competition, along with English professor John Wilkinson, biology graduate student Matthew Barnes and Cici Holley, a senior biology student.

The event brought students and faculty from different disciplines together.

“This event is a confluence of science and the arts, a chance to see how those two things meshed,” Hollocher said. “There’s this idea of different departments getting together. It’s really cross-disciplinary.”

The judges graded the poems on form, performance, content and humor. Audience cheers determined the winner of an audience appreciation category.

The overall winners were Kyle Rocca and Angela Salvo, whose poem honored all the scientists before Darwin whose efforts helped his discoveries. Mentioning Mendel’s peas, Leeuwenhoek’s microscope, and many others, their poem concluded, “The past we must remember, but the future lies with you.”

The poems included limericks, haikus and sonnets, and addressed topics ranging from the Great Tennessee Monkey trial to Darwin’s famous trip on the H.M.S. Beagle.

Grace Ho wrote a letter to Darwin from the perspective of the pigeons he raised for research. Her poem, “Dear Darwin, Love Pigeon,” won the form category.

Gabriel Pham wrote a tongue-in-cheek limerick about how evolution and natural selection make it difficult for guys who lack financial stability to mate.

“A disclaimer, this poem is a little risqué,” Pham said before reading.

Biology student Cat Stecyk and English major Michelle Romeu teamed up to write “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Evolution Fish.”

“This was a cool idea,” Romeu said. “It’s a fun way to enjoy poetry and science.”

Hollocher said she hopes to continue the event annually.