UW News

May 8, 2000

Third Undergraduate Research Symposium Friday, May 12

News and Information

More than 240 undergraduates will participate in the third Undergraduate Research Symposium, which will be held noon to 6 p.m. Friday, May 12 in Mary Gates Hall and the HUB.

The purpose of the event is to celebrate the work of undergraduates and to encourage others to consider engaging in research, according to Janice DeCosmo, who is director of experiential learning. DeCosmo also is director of the Space Grant Program.

One of the unusual aspects of this year’s symposium is that 11 students from Japan’s Tohoku University, who have been participating in a binational engineering design course for first-year engineering students from the UW and Tohoku, will be presenting their research. This project-based course employs teams of UW and Japanese students who collaborate over e-mail and through videoconferencing on common design projects.

The course is the brainchild of Gretchen Kalonji, Kyocera Professor of materials science and engineering, who worked with Tetsuo Shoji at Tohoku to make this happen. Students at the UW were enrolled in a five-credit design course as well as a one-credit seminar on Japanese culture and society. More information about this project is available.

Among the students who are presenting at the symposium is Clare Steedman, a sophomore who has been conducting research in the School of oceanography for nearly two years. Her research experience began through the NASA Space Grant’s Summer Research opportunity. She has worked with assistant professor William Wilcock. Steedman won a Mary Gates Research Training grant to support her research this academic year.

“I love my job,” she says. “I’ve gotten to know professor and grad students on a personal level, working side by side with them. I may learn stuff in class enough to pass the test, but in research, I actually have to put the concepts together on my own, to really think about them in order to make sense of them. When I applied for the research program, I had no idea what a central part of my life my job would become. Classes change every quarter, but for the past two years I’ve had a home in oceanography.”

Adam Halpern, a senior, became involved in research when he was an exchange student in Ecuador in 1998-99. He worked as an intern with a grassroots environmental organization and learned about the growing Afro-Ecuadorian movement, which became the basis for his research. Upon returning to the UW, he began a research project with France Winddance Twine, associate professor of international studies.

“The most valuable part of doing the research has been sharing what I have learned with others,” he says. “I feel that good research should have policy implications and should serve as a force in truly changing society.”

In addition to his research grant, Halpern has received a Mary Gates Leadership Grant to study business attitudes in Wapato. Although the two projects are unrelated, Halpern has drawn on the experience in the first project for the work in Wapato. “I am now using these research skills to work with local community leaders to help them transform their town, which is currently struggling economically and socially. This is the power of research, and the power of what I learned while working with Professor Twine.”

For more information, contact Janice DeCosmo, 206-685-8542.