Undergrads showcase research

    A host of students, faculty and administrators gathered at the UCSD Faculty Club on May 17 for the 16th annual Undergraduate Research Conference. The event was the first of three symposiums made possible by Academic Enrichment Program and the Office of Student Affairs.

    The other two are the Faculty/Mentor Research Conference later this month and the Summer Research Conference in August.

    Conference organizers invited 89 undergraduate students to conduct presentations and papers on their research topics for fellow students and moderating professors in a collection of 13 roundtable discussions.

    Each student was nominated by a member of the UCSD faculty as showing excellence in the fields they study. Professors of all majors were invited to submit recommendations. Majors on hand ranged from biological sciences to anthropology and topics ranged from Advances in Bioengineering to Explorations in World History.

    “”The purpose of UCSD’s annual research conference is to recognize the outstanding scholarly work produced by our undergraduates,”” said conference coordinator Darlene Salmon. “”We hope to stimulate additional interaction between students and faculty at the research level and encourage undergraduates to pursue degrees and careers in research and college academia.””

    Organizers also hope that the conference provided a dynamic and vital link for students pursuing a career in research and gave some experience in terms of presenting facts obtained in research to the academic community.

    “”Every student should come away from this with a feeling of confidence,”” said Loren C. Thompson, assistant vice chancellor of student educational advancement. “”Having faculty and fellow peers involved in discussions of their topics is a gesture of support from the university for undergraduate research as a whole.””

    The day began with guest speakers, including Chancellor Robert C. Dynes, followed by a series of presentations and discussions that lasted for the remainder of the day.

    Many of the student presenters felt a combination of excitement and nerves. For most of them, it was their first time presenting their research to professors.

    “”It’s good to see the teachers present during our speeches,”” said Jackson Wong, an Eleanor Roosevelt College student. “”Everyone here has the same goal to learn and that puts everyone on the same level. The faculty members are here to learn about these topics just as we are, and in that respect, we can consider them our peers. Knowing that relieves some of the pressure when we’re presenting our topics to them.””

    Other students feel that the conference helped expose them to a broader range of topics related to their field.

    “”Instead of focusing solely on the one thing we’re researching, we are also exposed to and can learn about other specialized areas that we may not have been aware of before,”” said Michael Tolleth, a Revelle College senior majoring in chemical physics.

    Many of the undergraduates attending the conference feel that the experience of presenting their findings to experts in their fields was the most rewarding part.

    “”This conference has helped me reevaluate my research and explain it in simpler terms for people who are not familiar with my topic,”” said Olga Gaidarenko, a Thurgood Marshall College sophomore majoring in molecular biology. “”It’s a wonderful experience and definitely not something that you can get in the classroom.””

    Administrators on hand expressed their beliefs that the strength of a research university is to allow undergraduate students to get their first experience in research and to learn what the creative process entails. They hoped that this conference helped expose students to that process.

    “”I hope that every researcher here experiences that flame of creative excitement that I experienced as a student researcher and still experience as a professional,”” Chancellor Dynes said. “”I hope that it will carry them and drive them in the future to be focused on creating new knowledge.””

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