Undergrads Show Research

What do vaudeville, health care, fuel cells and bipolar disorder have in common? They were all topics addressed in the 13th annual UC Irvine Undergraduate Research Symposium this past Saturday.
Sponsored by the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, the symposium allowed undergraduates who had participated in research in the past year to show their works to the general public. Although all UROP and Summer Undergraduate Research Program grant recipient students were required to present their research, the event was open to all students within UCI. Guests and faculty watched student presenters discuss their research projects through a variety of different formats from video, PowerPoint and speeches to dance.
This year’s symposium was themed ‘Let There Be Light,’ which Sharon Salinger, dean of undergraduate education, explained was ‘a celebration of the illumination we can experience through the research and creative process.’
UROP and SURP are programs offered by the UCI Division of Undergraduate Education to encourage undergraduate research either during the academic year or over the summer. Both of these opportunities are open to any UCI undergraduate, offering students grants, aid throughout the research process and chances to present their research.
UROP Director Said Shokair spoke about the purpose of the symposium.
‘This is an event for students and faculty to celebrate their collaboration, their work and communicate what they have found to their peers, faculty members and guests,’ Shokair said.
Shokair explained why many students pursue research.
‘[It] starts out with a student getting excited about a question,’ Shokair said. ‘Then they go through the research process in their field. [Then] they present and communicate what they have done and what they have found … the culmination of what they have done. It energizes them and gives them a great sense of accomplishment.’
Participating students either had a chance to show a poster during an allotted time or to give a 15-minute oral presentation followed by a short Q-and-A period in the Humanities Instructional Building and Humanities Hall. Outdoor on the second and third floors of Humanities Hall Building, the poster presentation was held for a 50-minute period in which presenters stood next to their work and were on hand to answer any questions.
One presenter, Tiffany Wu, a third-year political science and history major, made an oral presentation titled ‘Eurasia or My-Asia.’ Using a PowerPoint presentation, she discussed her research on how Central Asia provided a backdrop to study U.S.-Chinese relations.
‘The event was a great opportunity to see the academic potential of students,’ Wu said. ‘Researching is a great way to get to know faculty members, and it’s a great way to develop your own academic interests rather than always just sitting in lecture.’
Melody Liu, a fourth-year international studies and political science double major, and Linna Lee, a fourth-year political science major, focused their oral presentation on a guided research project on secondary education, utilizing a vivid and informative poster.
‘I definitely would recommend this experience because it’s really good to learn the professionalism of higher education,’ Liu said. ‘It’s college with a purpose. And as a regular student, you don’t really see that aspect of it. But if you go through this, you’ll really see what a UC is all about and the definition of a research institute.’
At the conclusion of the event, the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Education was issued for each school. The award distinguished commendable contributions and research achievements of faculty members and students, and awarded these accomplishments with a certificate and small cash prize.
‘I’m one of the strong believers that this will help somebody in expanding their knowledge base and develop communication skills and networking skills,’ Shokair said. ‘We think every undergraduate should be doing some kind of research or creative activity.’