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SPARC Festival Resources

SPARC Festival - April 24-26, 2019

The SPARC Festival is the Mount's yearly academic celebration of scholarship, performance, art, research and creativity, where you'll have the opportunity to present some of your best research or creative projects in a disciplinary-conference format. You'll find that the energy on campus is electric as you support the academic accomplishments of your peers and professors through three days of stimulating discussion and reflection.

Contact us:
Michael J. Turner, Ph.D.
Mary Catherine Kennedy, Ph.D.

Festival Formats

As a student, you have the opportunity to present your work through a variety of formats, and chances are you've been preparing something exciting for months! Take a look at these options to see which one works best with your course of study.

Keynote Speaker

Constance Rice


Constance Rice is a civil rights activist, lawyer and co-director of the Advancement Project in Los Angeles. In her legal work, Connie has led multiracial coalitions of lawyers and clients to win more than $10 billion in damages and policy changes, through traditional class action civil rights cases redressing police misconduct, race and sex discrimination and unfair public policy in transportation, probation and public housing. She filed a landmark case on behalf of low-income bus riders that resulted in a mandate that more than $2 billion be spent to improve the bus system. Together with Co-Directors Molly Munger and Steve English, Connie launched a coalition lawsuit, Godinez v. Davis, that won approximately $1 billion for new school construction in Los Angeles and other urban areas – money previously slated for less crowded, more affluent suburban school districts. With these funds, the Los Angeles Unified School District began its nationally recognized program to build over 66 new schools since 2001. After the court in Godinez required California to develop a new system for funding schools construction, Advancement Project was instrumental in assessing the need for adequate schools to serve all children in California and in crafting and shepherding three school construction bond initiatives that raised $25 billion for new and renovated facilities throughout the state, including $5 billion earmarked to relieve overcrowding in urban schools. This funding enabled California to build or renovate over 1 million school spaces since 2000. Connie then chaired the Independent Prop. BB Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee that monitored and evaluated how the Los Angeles Unified School District used its allocation of school construction funds.

At the invitation of LAPD Chief William Bratton, Connie investigated the biggest police corruption scandal in Los Angeles history and obtained the commitment of the chief to reform LAPD’s training and incentives system through an internal commission that she co-chairs. Connie also conducted a landmark 18-month assessment of the City of Los Angeles’ anti-gang programs and drew the blueprint to reduce gang violence through a regional, multi-jurisdictional comprehensive strategy to right the balance between suppression and prevention. In 2015, Connie was asked by President Obama to be on the White House Ashore on 21st Century Policing. The task force engaged with federal, state, tribal, and local officials; technical advisors; young leaders; and nongovernmental organizations to provide a transparent process to engage with the public in its work to prepare a report and recommendations to be presented to the president. Prior to co-founding Advancement Project, Connie was co-director of the Los Angeles office of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, an associate at the law firm of Morrison & Foerster, and a clerk to the Honorable Damon J. Keith, judge of the United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit. Connie is a graduate of Harvard College and the New York University School of Law. In 2006, Los Angeles Times West Magazine named Connie one of the 100 most powerful people in Southern California, and California Law Business has twice named her one of the top 10 most influential lawyers in California.

Honored Faculty Speaker

Patrick Lombardi, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Biochemistry


Patrick Lombardi, Ph.D., received his Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Yale University in 2006. He earned his doctoral degree in chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania under the guidance of Professor David W. Christianson, Ph.D. While in the Christianson laboratory, Lombardi used X-ray crystallography to determine the three-dimensional structures of several bacterial metalloenzymes, including a polyamine deacetylase and a terpene cyclase. Lombardi joined the laboratory of Professor Cynthia Wolberger, Ph.D., at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 2012 where his research focused on understanding the structural basis of ubiquitin signaling in the DNA damage response. At the Mount, Lombardi works with undergraduate researchers to study ubiquitin signaling using a combination of biochemistry, biophysics and structural biology.


DNA is the blueprint for making everything in our bodies. However, we all continuously experience DNA damage from both internal and external sources. We are able to preserve our genetic information because our cells are equipped with DNA repair machinery that detects and fixes this damage. Our group is interested in understanding how the cell’s DNA repair machinery is targeted to damage sites. This talk will focus on how cells utilize the protein ubiquitin to recruit DNA repair factors, with emphasis on the experiments Mount St. Mary’s students are conducting to characterize the proteinbinding interactions that are essential for this process.

Dates and Times

  • February 18-March 1: SPARC submission period (review period during Spring Break)
  • March 13-18: Resubmission period
  • March 27: Finalized schedule determined
  • April 24-26: SPARC Festival
  • April 26, 3:30 p.m.: Academic Awards

Lightning Talks

A Lightning Talk is where you give a brief presentation to hit on the main points of an idea and express what matters most. Don't plan to read a speech or essay in its entirety. Be selective, condensing your talk to its essentials.

Lightning Talk Guidelines


When you submitted your proposal, you indicated your preferences for a one-hour time slot. About a week prior to the festival, you will be notified of your presentation time (15-minute window in that hour). Please arrive 5 minutes prior to your presentation time.


PowerPoint slides or other computer files can be projected on a laptop computer that will be set up prior to your presentation. PowerPoint is not required. Bring your computer and bring the file with you on a flash drive or email it to yourself.


Each presenter has 15 minutes, including time for questions & answers. Plan to speak no longer than 10 minutes. Please honor your time constraints in order to facilitate the presentations that precede or follow yours.


The most successful lightning talks show evidence of preparation, organization, enthusiasm and confidence. Avoid speaking too rapidly or too quietly. Remember to relax and breathe. For best results, practice your talk and ask a friend to time you.

Honors Presentations

An Honors Presentation is the final capstone presentation of an honors thesis, as per the requirements of the University Honors Program. If you're presenting your honors thesis, chances are you've already worked through many months of research and the SPARC Festival is when your findings are presented to the university and greater community.

Panel Presentations

A Panel Presentation is where you may be part of a small group of presenters (three to six) who talk about various angles on a specific theme. Panels are scheduled for 60-75 minutes and panelists usually speak for roughly 10 minutes each. If you have a panel idea, talk with one of your professors!

Poster Presentations

A poster is a way to presents the result of your project visually, demonstrating your goals, methods and conclusions. Your poster should be self-explanatory, leaving you free to answer questions on the finer details of the project. Poster sessions are scheduled for two-hour blocks.

Guidelines for Creating a SPARC Festival Poster


Poster sessions last two hours and take place in Patriot Hall. You'll need to arrive 15 minutes early to set up.


Design your poster so that it can be tacked onto a 4 foot by 4-foot corkboard. Pushpins will be available. You may use PowerPoint to design a 4 x 4 poster that can be printed in the Center for Instructional Technology and tacked onto the mounting board or design a series of slides (letter-sized or smaller) that can be individually printed and tacked onto the mounting board. You may supplement your poster with a laptop presentation, though access to electric outlets will be limited. If you include audio, keep the volume to a reasonable level.


Present sufficient evidence to support your conclusions, and use illustrations, plots, small tables, or other visually-appealing content over text. If your project was initially in narrative form, then select representative excerpts. Limit yourself to four or five pages of text in a large font legible from a four-foot distance.


Provide background on your goals, methods, and conclusions. What is the underlying question, why is it important, what is the timeline, who were the participants, what activities went into the research, what conclusion did you reach? Share enough information to allow observers to respond with informed questions.


Sequence items on your poster in an intuitive way that allows observers to readily understand your project. Use left-to-right, top-to-bottom organization and include letters or arrows if necessary. Feature major points, leaving other findings for informal conversations with SPARC attendees. Provide clear labels for each section of your presentation. Use color to enhance comprehension.


Choose a descriptive, catchy title. Include the names of the presenters.


Simplicity is key. Don't try to cover too much material. Say a lot about a little rather than a little about a lot. Rehearse a brief summary of your project. Before you make your poster, create a list of the visuals you would include if you were describing your project with only the visuals. Write the text after you have created the list of visuals.


For examples of poster sessions from previous SPARC festivals, visit our Facebook page.

Performance Presentations

A Performance Presentation is where you will present a discussion of the process by which a performance of music, theater or performance art is prepared and then perform it. This 20-minute presentation session is followed by a Q&A session with attendants.