Undergraduate Academic Affairs

May 20, 2009

Students Become Teachers at 12th Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium

Undergraduate Academic Affairs

By Crystal Chiechi

On May 15, 2009, Mary Gates Hall brimmed with the energy of nearly 700 talented undergraduates showcasing their contributions to innovative and groundbreaking research at the Twelfth Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium.

“The most important ingredients are interest and passion,” says Janice DeCosmo of the projects she oversees as director of UAA’s Undergraduate Research Program, which facilitates research experiences for undergraduates in all academic disciplines. “This is a way for students to learn the process of presenting research.”

The Undergraduate Research Program organized the event to give students a venue for presenting their engagement with a diverse array of research topics to a larger audience through posters, oral presentations, and performances.

Cameron Rule, a senior majoring in Russian, presented his research comparing bilingual speakers in Lithuania and Estonia. He said the symposium was “an excellent opportunity to engage with other young researchers across a multitude of academic disciplines.”

Rule’s parents, who drove over from Spokane, remember their son being intrigued by all things Russian from a fairly young age and are proud of his contributions to undergraduate research, saying he has a “knack for languages.”

“We are very impressed with the sheer quality of UW research projects,” says Mike Rule. With projects ranging from linguistics to bioengineering to performing arts, students, faculty, and the community discussed cutting edge research and discovered how undergraduate research is solving real-life issues.

Wanting to solve the problem of bus uncertainty, recent graduates Raman Ahluwalia and Evan Hwang along with seniors Mark Javate, Daniel Nguyen, and Alex Poon presented their research called “Where’s My Bus: King County Bus Visualization and Improvement.”

By Crystal Chiechi

Seeing an issue students deal with on a daily basis, they set up a website (http://www.evanhwang.com/wheresmybus) where riders can log on and track their bus by its route number. They said the most important design element was “ease of use” and got a broad view of public needs by testing their design with people from diverse backgrounds.

Senior bio-engineering major David Linders is also solving real world issues with “a disposable clinical force-sensing glove for measuring the forces [physicians] apply to their patients.” With far-reaching applications in chiropractics, surgery and cardiology, Linders and his team plan to take their product presented at the Symposium to full commercialization soon.

“This project has given me more business sense,” Linders states. “Educationally, I never saw myself as entrepreneurial, but have come to enjoy that aspect.” He credits his mentors Dr. David Nuckley of the University of Minnesota and UW’s Dr. Weichih Wang for their “quality of work and flexibility” in allowing him “to expand the project and contribute” his own ideas to the project.

Students at the symposium took the opportunity to honor the mentors who balance the guidance and flexibility essential to their achievements. Undergraduate Research Mentor Awards were presented to Martha Bosma, associate professor, biology; James E. Gawel, associate professor of interdisciplinary arts and sciences, UW Tacoma; Matt. R. Kaeberlein, assistant professor of pathology; Sheri J.Y. Mizumori, professor and chair, psychology; and Jentery F. Sayers, graduate student, English. Mentors were selected based on their commitment to undergraduate research, their history of supporting and mentoring students, and the number of students they’ve mentored over the years.

Brittney Patterson, a junior economics major has been studying Bachata, a music and dance style from the Dominican Republic. She credits her mentor, Juliet McMaines from the dance department, for her help in researching how dance can be used as a tool for social change. “I can relate to her passion and she is so knowledgeable,” Patterson says, “but she doesn’t press her ideas on me. She lets me come to my own conclusions.”