College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Students showcase research, projects at symposium

Students present their boards and research in a gallery at the Undergraduate Research Symposium on April 14 in the Memorial Union. (Photo by Emily Matson)
Students present their boards and research in a gallery at the Undergraduate Research Symposium on April 14 in the Memorial Union. (Photo by Emily Matson)

Iowa State’s ninth annual Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression Symposium took place Tuesday in the Pioneer Room of the Memorial Union.

The symposium included 49 majors, 145 students and 113 presentations of research projects undergraduate students have been developing. The event is coordinated by the honors program to showcase various types of research from undergraduate students.

It is unique because the symposium is open to all students who are participating in research and it specifically focuses on undergraduate student research.

“It’s great to work with undergrads because they have fresh ideas. They’re usually very, very eager to do research when they’re interested in it,” said Rhea Waldman, post-doctoral student in ecology/evolution and organismal biology. “They have so many opportunities now to figure out what they’re interested in, which I think is a great thing.”

The symposium selects the projects to be presented by reviewing abstracts of hopeful presenters. The selection committee looks for originality when assessing projects, said Michael Lyons, coordinator for undergraduate research.

Part of his job is to encourage and develop undergraduate research throughout the whole university, Lyons said.

“If you want someone to spend enough time to produce these kinds of results, there really has to be some serious incentive or they’re a very special undergrad in terms of motivation,” said Rye Waldman, post-doctoral student in aerospace engineering.

Waldman said some students received class credit or fulfilled a curriculum requirement by doing these research projects, but there should be more to incentivize undergraduate students to encourage them to make research a part of their busy schedule.

The meteorology major has a required senior thesis requirement for graduation, said Samantha Lodge, senior in meteorology and environmental science.

Lodge said she developed her project with her mentors, Eugene Takle and Renee Walton, who also assisted in her research study on determining the effects of wind shear on the power output in individual wind turbines.

Jaime Freiburger, senior in pre-med kinesiology, said she was inspired to do research by her professor, Elizabeth Stegemoller.

“If you’re interested in what a lot of people are, and you’re good at it, and understanding it, then it’s a big foot in the door,” Freiburger said.

Her project was on the quality of life for patients with Parkinson’s disease.

Not all of the projects presented at the symposium were scientific, however. Some focused on interior design, social media and gender studies.

“This is the only one I could do something for that has an open application to any area, so I really appreciate that — that it’s any research and creative expression,” said Krista Klocke, senior in speech communication and communication studies.

Klocke’s project was a rhetorical criticism titled “The Danger of Feminine Political Narratives.” She said she presented at the symposium her freshman year and was planning for it this semester.

Research can be anything as long as the researcher is looking at the topic from a unique angle and discovering something new, Lyons said.

The symposium allows students to share their findings on the research they have done through both posters and presentations.

“It’s nice to be able to talk about your research and educate people,” Freiburger said.

Research also allows students to make use of and apply their coursework in their own unique way to find something new.

“It’s just so much more fun than just taking your classes,” Lyons said.

Waldman said the students who do this research should be rewarded, and this is a good way to do this because they are able to show off their work.

“If you put all that work in, tell somebody about it,” said Ashley Overman, graduate student for the honors program who helped organize the event.

This story was originally written by Madeline Gould of the Iowa State Daily.