Undergraduate Research Symposium Successful

Sixty third- and fourth-year students proved research isn’t just for graduate students at the first Undergraduate Research Symposium Wed., Nov. 29.

The Students’ Union held the symposium in MacEwan Hall to showcase students’ work. There was food and music to celebrate the event, and people were encouraged to vote for their favourite research in two categories: best poster and peoples’ choice award.

Students’ Union vice-president academic Shannon O’Connor said feedback from the symposium was positive.

“There was a really good turnout,” said O’Connor. “I’m happy that students had this opportunity to show off their research.”

Computer science students Brina Goyette, Sean McIntyre and Vladmir Sedach spent the past summer working on the problem of computer communication. Their research involved coding and networking computers to send messages to each other. They had the chance to use the program they developed to power appliances in a smart home.

“I got to know lots of people in the department and see what grad school might be like,” said third-year student Goyette.”This makes it a lot easier to get further funding and future research.”

McIntyre, who is also in his third year, learned what options he might want to pursue after his degree.

“I’m really interested in graduate studies and this was like a graduate studies boot camp,” said McIntyre. “I learned a lot in my field and was able to apply what I’ve learned in classes to the work.”

Leigh C. Anderson, a fourth-year psychology student, spent his summer continuing research that started in his third year. His research used questionaires to collect data on consumer spending habits. Anderson said the results showed that people tended to justify overspending by telling themselves they need something when they really only wanted it. Anderson, whose future plans include a PhD in clinical psychology, is grateful for his research experience.

“A big asset in clinical psychology is undergrad research,” said Anderson. “Whether or not you have any research experience is one of the biggest factors that they consider for admission.”

For Megan Carter and Ashley Jensen, two fourth-year health science students, research this summer took them overseas to a research institute in Ethiopia. Carter and Jensen visited rural hospitals and care centres to see how meningitis is being dealt with, and how the situation can be improved.

“I’ve never been to a developing country,” said Carter. “It was good to see what practical work can contribute.”

Carter also gained insight into doing research outside of a controlled lab setting.

“You have to be more flexible and adaptable when you’re out in the field,” she said. “You go there with an idea of what you should ask, but you don’t have the complete picture until you get there.” While they were there, the two students also established relationships with institutes and the Canadian Embassy to continue sending students.

Elise Blackhall won the peoples’ choice award was for her research titled: ‘Expansion of putative canine embryonic stem cells in suspension.’ The award for best poster went to Joseph Purcell for his research titled: ‘Condition dependant toxicity of host defenses to mountain pine beetles.’

“We are hoping for next year and many more that [the symposium] will become an annual event,” said O’Connor.

O’Connor said she realizes how valuable research opportunities are for students and that many students don’t know where to start looking. In response, the U of C provost’s office and Research Services worked together to set up the Undergraduate Research Portal.

“It’s a centralized place for students to look for research opportunities and profs to post any research they may have,” said O’Connor. She added that the website will also post funding opportunities from organizations like the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council. The portal is accessible through the myUofC webpage.

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