Drury University students gathered around some of their peers' exhibits at Fusion Day 2022 (Photo provided by Drury University)

Drury University invites anyone to come learn about machine learning, post-COVID economics and even Springfield’s pizza scene. It’s all part of an event called Fusion Day, where the college invites the public into its learning space.

Fusion Day launched in 2019 — just before the COVID-19 pandemic. The event returned in 2022. 

Jasmine Cooper, director of university communications and media relations, has seen an increase in posters and proposed talks for the event compared to the first Fusion Day. More than 220 posters and nine Fuse Talks are scheduled. 

“We saw about a 50-percent increase in the number of posters submitted and a similar increase in the number of proposed talks,” Cooper said.

This two-day event kicks off April 25 at 5:30 p.m. with a graduate project poster showcase at the Judy Thompson Executive Conference Center. Students will show off posters they designed for the event followed by a speech at 7 p.m. by Dr. Laura Waters, a Drury graduate. 

Waters will give a talk about how a Drury education allowed her to combine her love for travel and passion for medicine. Waters is a board-certified pediatrician with Mercy HealthTracks Pediatrics and is the first pediatrician in Greene County trained to diagnose autism spectrum disorders. Her talk will take place in the Judy Thompson Executive Conference Center.

On April 26, Drury University will showcase the largest academic celebration of the year with students’ original research, scholarship and creative work.

The event will feature activities such as a pizza contest, where students vote on their favorite pizzas from several Springfield restaurants and Fuse Talks; seven-minute TED Talk-style presentations suited for general audiences on topics that represent a range of academic programs at Drury University. 

Students choose topics to represent their capstone work. A group of faculty members at Drury University selects the top 6 or 7 proposals to present at Fusion Day, but this year, nine were selected. 

‘Machine learning is taking imaging like neuroimaging, eye movement, and even some facial recognition, which is a little scary

Out of the nine students presenting Fuse Talks for the event, the Springfield Daily Citizen interviewed two students. One of the students is Lizzie Daggett, a senior at the university who is currently working towards a master’s degree in architecture and minoring in computer science. She will give a presentation on how machine learning and artificial intelligence can facilitate early diagnosis for individuals with autism.

Lizzie Daggett, a senior at Drury University, will present Machine Learning and Autism Facilitating Early On Diagnosis at Fusion Day 2023.

Daggett describes how she learned she was autistic about a year and a half ago. She wants to use this opportunity to spread autism awareness in a positive light and knows it’s something important to her people should know about her, and why this research is so important. 

Artificial intelligence is a scary thing to Daggett if it’s involved in making a decision about an individual’s mental health. Especially when people who have gone to school to become doctors and have had years of training are able to make critical decisions about a person’s mental health. 

“We shouldn’t be letting artificial intelligence run that, because then we will have an issue with mental health disorders like anxiety and ADHD where it gets over-diagnosed and the people who are really suffering from things get left out,” Daggett said. 

Machine learning could lead to several mental health disorders being over-diagnosed if the human component is mostly removed from the process. Artificial intelligence does not have human cognitive ability. 

”Machine learning is taking imaging like neuroimaging, eye movement, and even some facial recognition, which is a little scary, and trying to diagnose individuals who show pre-diagnostics to give to professionals to diagnose. Again. A little scary,” Daggett said. 

Daggett has been involved in Fusion Day at Drury since its inception in 2019, when she submitted a poster for the first event. She felt the encouragement from her professors at the university which pushed her to submit a poster that got accepted to be on display. At the last minute, she was also asked to give a talk about her poster and she gave a 3-minute speech.

‘It kind of just tells you how COVID-19 affected the price changes in that specific industry or those sectors’

Abby Hallberg is finishing up their junior year at Drury University, double majoring in finance and economics. In their capstone class for data analytics, Hallberg wanted to do something involving Excel spreadsheets and combining finance with what they learned in economics. 

With lots of stock market data acquired from Yahoo Finance, Hallberg went to Dr. Juan Andres Rodriguez-Nieto, an assistant professor of finance, for help in finding a topic for Fusion Day. With a little bit of direction from Rodriguez-Nieto, Hallberg then settled on the topic of the effect COVID-19 had on betas of the S&P 500 (Standard & Poor’s 500) sectors.

Abby Hallberg, a junior at Drury University, will be giving a talk on COVID-19s Effects on Betas of S&P 500 Sectors at Fusion Days. (Photo by Abby Hallberg)

“And so I interpreted based on the effects of COVID-19 and how their stock price changed before COVID-19 hit and then after COVID-19 hit,” Hallberg said. “So based on the beta value changes before and after COVID, it kind of just tells you how COVID-19 affected the price changes in that specific industry or those sectors.”

The S&P 500 tracks 500 of the largest companies listed in the stock exchange. The term beta is a measure of a stock’s sensitivity to the movement of the stock market. Spheres like communication services, consumer staples, energy, and healthcare financials are some examples of the 11 different sectors involved in the S&P 500. 

Hallberg believes this is an easy topic to talk about for a general audience based on how the data speaks for itself. They feel that seven minutes to go over each sector, explain the role in the overall market and explain what beta values are, is plenty of time. 

On April 26 at 5:30 p.m., the second speaker at the event is Dr. Michael J. Sorrell, president of historically black college Paul Quinn College in Dallas, Texas. Sorrell will give a lecture that will focus on leadership and fear. 

Sorrell’s accolades include being named one of the “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders” by Fortune Magazine in addition to Time Magazine listing him as one of the “31 People Changing the South.” His talk will also take place in the Judy Thompson Executive Conference Center.

All events during Fusion Day are free and open to the public.  

Drury University Fusion Day schedule of events

Tuesday, April 25

5:30 – 6:30 p.m.
Graduate project posters: Education
Judy Thompson Executive Conference Center

7 p.m.
Alumni Speaker: Dr. Laura Waters, ’05, ’19 MBA
Judy Thompson Executive Conference Center

Wednesday, April 26

10 – 11:30 a.m.
Certificate capstone panels
O’Reilly Enterprise Center classrooms

11:30 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.
Food trucks
O’Reilly Enterprise Center parking lot

12:45 – 2:30 p.m.
Fuse Talks
Judy Thompson Executive Conference Center

2:30 – 3 p.m.
Prize drawing and refreshments
O’Reilly Family Event Center

3 – 4:30 p.m.
Poster Session
O’Reilly Family Event Center

4:30 – 5:30 p.m.
Springfield’s best pizza contest
Reed Auditorium in the Trustee Science Center

5 – 5:30 p.m.
Contest winners announced
Judy Thompson Executive Conference Center

5:30 – 6:30 p.m.
Keynote speaker: Dr. Michael Sorrell
Judy Thompson Executive Conference Center

Dylan Durrington

Dylan Durrington

Dylan True Durrington is a general assignment intern at the Springfield Daily Citizen. He’s currently a senior at Missouri State University studying Journalism and Mass Media. Durrington is interested in voice over, music, computers and broadcasting. More by Dylan Durrington