Students and faculty packed the Student Center last Saturday to display their research projects to peers and mentors.
The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) held its 20th Annual UCI Undergraduate Research Symposium in the Student Center last Saturday, uniting researchers from across UC Irvine to display and honor research collaborations between undergraduate students and faculty. The day-long event allowed researchers, who received funding through UROP, to display their findings in a professional setting — to be evaluated by peers and faculty mentors.
In its 20th year, the symposium made a transition this year in holding the entirety of its event in the Student Center, with a record number of research collaborations and attendees.
“Another record number: close to 950 undergraduates, close to 400 faculty mentors, 700 to 800 guests. We are using every inch of Student Center, and the sky is the limit,” Said M. Shokair, director of UROP, said. “This is an exciting day, this is part of the research process, and we hope that you will continue to keep an eye out for many of these wonderful scholars, student researchers and leaders.”
Students, faculty and guests gathered in halls and ballrooms, filling the event to capacity, as researchers displayed their results during poster sessions and two separate presentation series.
Exemplifying the collaboration between the undergraduate community and the professional research faculty at UCI, the event closed an amazing year of record-breaking research for UROP and the student participants who received funding from the program.
Keynote speaker and Professor of Developmental & Cell Biology, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Biomedical Engineering, Bruce Blumberg, commented on the extraordinary opportunity that students at UCI are given through UROP and the research endeavors that are being seen from undergraduates.
“One of the great things about a university like UCI is that you can ask and answer the questions that you find interesting,” Blumberg said. “And that’s something that motivates me every day.”
Giving his keynote address on his research addressing “obesogens,” chemical factors leading to obesity, Blumberg urged researchers of the importance of investigating scientific questions that they find important.
The research discussed during the event was not solely limited to the sciences. Ranging from live-animal research projects testing the effects of nicotine and cocaine on rats, to lyrical free-form dances inspired by Spanish cultural dance movements, nearly all schools at UCI were represented in the research presented.
“What I like about UROP is that it’s not limited to one field of study,” Andrew Cabrera, a fourth-year biological sciences major, said. “It’s riveting to see the innovative studies performed by my fellow researchers.”
During her closing speech at the event’s awards ceremony, Dean of the Division of Undergraduate Education, Sharon V. Salinger, took a brief moment to pay tribute to the man who put together the entire event, and leader of UROP — Said M. Shokair.
“I want to thank Said. I want to acknowledge him as an amazing director of this program,” Salinger said. “Beyond that, Said’s passion for undergraduate research takes him all over the campus; he collaborates with every single unit on this campus to increase the opportunities for undergraduate research.”
Salinger went on to speak of the accomplishments that UROP celebrated this year, as well as the strides that the program has made in collaborative research efforts across all of campus, under nearly all disciplines.
“This out-of-classroom experience is really transformative for a student,” she said. “It goes so far beyond this particular event.”