Celebrating Student Research
Annual research symposium highlights undergraduate contributions to scholarship and research
By Alexandra Erath, A16
| Gregory Galanti, A14, explains the data from his investigation, "Effects of TEM8-Binding Small Molecules on Microvascular Endothelial Cell Migration", during the 16th Annual Undergraduate Research Scholarship Symposium at Tufts on April 30, 2014.
Julia Morse, A16, discusses data from her research project. "An Immigrant Mother's Experience Raising Children in the United States", during the annual Undergraduate Research Scholarship Symposium.
David Riche, A14 and Wen Hoe, A14, give an oral presentation on their research, "Civil Society and Moroccan Immigration", during the Undergraduate Research Scholarship Symposium.
Nana Kwasi Kwakwa, E14, is congratulated on his research project, "A Wireless Near-Infrared Spectroscope for Functional Brain Studies", during the Undergraduate Research Scholarship Symposium.
(above photos: Alonso Nichols, Tufts University)
This past April marked the sixteenth year of Tufts' largest celebration of undergraduate research, the Undergraduate Research and Scholarship Symposium. More than one hundred students gave oral presentations or poster exhibitions to an audience of students, faculty, and members of the Tufts community. The researchers were divided among panels, grouping similar projects together and allowing visitors to pick and choose the topics they'd like to learn more about.
Staff advisor Anne Moore describes the symposium as having two main purposes. "A big part of it is giving students a chance to share what they've been doing," says Moore. "It's great professional training, because the symposium feels very different than an in-class presentation. But I also think it's a great chance for students attending the symposium to get a sense of all the different ways that research looks."
Junior Hayden Lizotte, who participated in last year's symposium with her presentation of "Reconciling Influence and Agency: Renewal and Adaptation in Two Colonial Encounters in British India," and is now a member of the symposium's student committee, agrees. "Even if you come and only go to a humanities panel, if you walk around the poster section for five minutes, you'll see everything," says Lizotte.. "It's really interesting to see what research looks like in other fields, what evidence looks like in other fields, and what's going on at Tufts."
Tufts offers many programs for students interested in pursuing undergraduate research, including Summer Scholars, the International Research Program, and EPIIC (Education for Public Inquiry and International Citizenship). Students participating in these three programs are required to present at the symposium, but many others choose to participate and showcase their hard work.
Sophomore Jordin Metz presented his investigations in Professor Mary Jane Shultz's chemistry laboratory, where he works with other undergraduate researchers studying titanium dioxide, a photo-catalyst, for water purification. "Presenting at the symposium today was a great experience," he says. "I really enjoyed milling around and asking people about their posters, and telling them about mine. It's interesting to talk to people who understand a lot about what you do, and then to others who just want a general introduction to the topic."
Junior Ayesha Forbes, a member of this year's EPIIC class, presented her exploration of the plight of Syrian women refugees. She spoke about Jordanian tribal dynamics and the influence of conservative gender biases on the socio-economic freedom of the refugees. Forbes thought her presentation went well. "It feels great to be able to know a lot about a topic and to answer the critical questions my audience was asking," she says.
Moore thinks that students like Metz and Forbes can learn a lot from each other. "It's very important for science or engineering students to understand what research in the humanities or social sciences looks like," she explains. "And for students in the humanities to see what research in the sciences looks like," she points out. "Both of those groups of students can learn from each other. The symposium is a great space for interdisciplinary conversations."
Lizotte, who was greatly involved in the planning of this year's symposium, thinks that there's a certain type of student who is drawn to presenting. "Obviously, there are the students who are very involved in research at Tufts," says Lizotte, "but there are also the students who just become very passionate about an idea or topic they want to learn more about, and they see the symposium as a satisfying way to share their enthusiasm."
Overall, many of those involved with the undergraduate research symposium agree that the event is an integral part of Tufts' academic culture. "Interdisciplinary independent research gives students a way to bring different interests together," says Moore. Metz agrees, explaining that the presentations allow all members of the community to gain valuable insight into the exciting research being conducted in all disciplines.
"Sometimes you don't even realize how cool a school Tufts is," says Metz, "until you see what all the other students are learning and inventing all around you."