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Undergrad Combines Majors, Presents Research across U.S.

Tori Williams pictured with one of her history advisors, Dr. Matthew Booker

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Tori Williams has been busy this spring.

Already occupied her duties as a University Scholar, tutor and double-major in history and biological sciences, Williams added multiple presentations at conferences across the nation to her hectic schedule in April.

On the first leg of her journey, Williams presented her research on the history of medicine at the NC State Graduate Student History Conference. Following the event, Williams then flew to California to give a poster presentation at Stanford University’s inaugural National Research Conference on April 15-17.

Finally, on April 20, Williams returned to the East Coast to deliver her presentation at the NC State Spring Undergraduate Research Symposium.

Williams’ presentation, entitled “Wilmington’s Babies Hospital, 1920-1978: Recovering the Role of Architectural Design in 20th Century Medicine,” investigates the intersections between advancements in medical science and architectural design.

Through a case study of the Babies Hospital, Williams examines changing attitudes toward germ theory and the expectations of keeping up with medical advancements in the design and function of medical facilities.

After the dust settled, I had a chance to catch up with Williams and find out more about her research and travel.

Q: What inspired your project?

A: I am completing a B.S. in both history and biological sciences, and when I started my honors thesis I wanted to find a way to blend both of my majors together. Therefore, I decided to focus on the history of medicine.

Q: Why did you choose to research the Wilmington Babies Hospital?

A: I found my topic of Babies Hospital by accident while searching through the Duke University Libraries’ University Archives one day, and it has turned out to be very rich and fascinating. Babies Hospital, founded in 1920, quickly became the go-to hospital for babies and children. Its reputation rested on the expertise of its founder, Dr. James Sidbury, and the hospital’s proximity to the supposed health benefits of fresh sea air. Babies Hospital provided the perfect opportunity to examine how changing ideas of germ theory connected to older ideas about air and light.

Q: How did you go about researching your project?

A: Most of my research for this project was done at the Duke archives, but I also spent time researching at the New Hanover Public Library in Wilmington, North Carolina. Primary sources included local newspapers, medical journals, interviews and the personal papers of Dr. Sidbury.

Q: What did you gain from presenting your research?

A: Overall, all of these opportunities have helped me to further develop my public speaking skills and find areas where I could expand on my research. Also, I am very grateful for all of the help that both of my advisors (Dr. Matthew Booker and Dr. William Kimler) have extended along the way.

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