UW News

May 13, 2004

Questioning reality: Undergraduates present innovative research in May 14 symposium

UW News

Are small-scale stream restoration projects successful? What are the most efficient undergraduate business programs in the Pac-10? And by the way, how have novelty records affected British popular culture?

Such questions and scores more will be addressed by UW students in oral and printed presentations at the Seventh Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium, to be held noon to 5 p.m. Friday, May 14, at Mary Gates Hall. The afternoon will kick off with a presentation by President Lee Huntsman.

The symposium is a chance for students, faculty, parents, staff members and the public to see innovative research conceived and conducted by undergraduate students in all fields of study, said Janice DeCosmo, UW assistant dean of undergraduate education. DeCosmo said she’s impressed with the level of sophistication of these research inquiries.

“Our undergraduates get involved with really new, cutting-edge advances, for example, in medical technologies,” DeCosmo said. “For the past couple of years we’ve had a number of students participating in the development of high-intensity, focused ultrasound, on the cutting edge of both engineering and medicine. Incredible new techniques.”

As the projects represent research opportunities undergraduates don’t usually encounter in class, she said the symposium also is a chance for undergraduates not yet involved in research to see the plentiful opportunities the UW provides.

The list of such projects — available for perusal online at http://www.washington.edu/research/urp/symp/index.html — includes notions from all manner of academic pursuits.

On the cultural side, presentations include a look at women and multiculturalism in Swedish film, a Fellini retrospective and studies of satire and identity in Israel and sexuality in Japanese animation as just a few examples.

Scientific subjects are in the majority, including plans for an automated lunar greenhouse and a Mars biosatellite, a study of the effect of oxygen concentration on nematode mutants and a look at the use of carbon fiber-reinforced polymers in earthquake retrofitting — among a great many other presentations.

DeCosmo said these are independent study projects done by enterprising undergraduates, usually in addition to their coursework. The project presentations will alternate through the afternoon with poster sessions — participating researchers had the choice to present either orally or via a graphic representation of their work.

The students are not the only ones to benefit from undergraduate research, DeCosmo said. Each of the projects is conducted in consultation with a faculty mentor.

“It does require time and effort, but it can also be very inspirational for the mentors to interact with these young students,” DeCosmo said.