Remorse—its expression or lack thereof—plays a major role in sentencing, bail, and other aspects of the criminal justice system. But are judges consistent in how or even whether they factor remorse into their decisions? Do they share the same definitions and perceptions of remorse?

Medical student Rocksheng Zhong and colleagues set out to answer those questions and reported their surprising findings at the school’s 26th annual Student Research Day.

This year saw a record 92 scientific posters, said John N. Forrest, M. D., director of the Office of Student Research. Topics ranged from basic scientific probes to developing new treatment techniques to studies in public health and psychology. “The amazing thing is the growth of student research posters from 11 25 years ago to 92 this year,” Forrest said. “Student Research Day at Yale has really taken off.”

Many medical schools have no thesis requirement, and Yale’s is the oldest, dating back to 1839, Forrest said. “A thesis teaches students to think scientifically,” he said. “It teaches them to understand science from the inside and how to think creatively for the rest of their professional lives.”

For their project titled “So You’re Sorry? The Role of Remorse in Criminal Law,” Zhong and his colleagues Madelon Baranoski, Ph.D., M.S.N., associate professor of psychiatry, Larry Davidson, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry, and Howard V. Zonana, M.D., professor of psychiatry and professor (adjunct) of law, interviewed 23 Connecticut superior court judges, asking them how often they see remorse, how they tell whether it’s genuine, and how expressions of remorse from those convicted of crimes affect their sentences.

“What we found was there aren’t really any common things at all,” Zhong said. “Some said they see it all the time. Others said rarely. Some said it’s very important. Other said no.”

The wide disparity of responses suggests that judges perceive and apply remorse to their decisions inconsistently, a finding that should concern the legal community, Zhong said.

Daniel Duncan, who was advised by Christopher K. Breuer, M.D., associate professor of surgery (pediatrics), and of pediatrics, focused on a problem in corrective surgery for babies born with only one heart ventricle. The latest technique is to grow the patient’s cells on a biodegradable scaffold and then insert it surgically to take the place of the missing ventricle. Sometimes, however, the cell lining inside the newly created vessel hardens to muscle, narrowing it. Duncan inserted the tube into mice and administered a TGF Beta inhibitor drug. The drug prevented muscle transformation for two weeks after which the danger of closure passed. That raises the possibility the same drug might work in humans, he said. “It’s exciting for us,” said Duncan, whose thesis was one of six to win an award and be presented orally.

In addition to Duncan, award winners included Badri Modi, Marko Boskovski, M.D. ’12, Don Hoang, M.D. ’12, John Thomas, M.D. ’12, and Corey Frucht, M.D. ’12.

Jeffrey F. Flier, M.D., dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Harvard University, delivered the 25th annual Farr Lecture, which was followed by dinner for student presenters in Woolsey Hall, hosted by Dean Robert J. Alpern, Ensign Professor of Medicine. Flier’s talk was titled “Resistance to Metabolic Hormones in the Pathogensesis of Obesity and Diabetes: Insulin, Leptin and FGF21.”