Students Present Research at U Symposium

(Photo by Kiffer Creveling)

(Photo by Kiffer Creveling)

(Photo by Kiffer Creveling)
(Photo by Kiffer Creveling)

What do novels, air quality and biking apparel for paraplegics have in common? They were all part of the presentations at this year’s Undergraduate Research Symposium.

More than 300 students stood in front of posters and sat on panels in the Union on Tuesday to present their research to hundreds of community members. Rachel Hayes-Harb, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research, said the purpose of the event was to celebrate the students, allowing them to see their peers’ work and getting others interested in starting their own projects.

“We actually turn our students into our colleagues so they’re not just here to learn; they’re also here to contribute to the scholarship that goes on here,” Hayes-Harb said.

Chanapa Tantibanchachai, associate science writer for the U’s Marketing and Communications, said these kinds of symposiums are one of the best ways students can polish their presentation skills.

“It’s not enough just to conduct great research, but you have to be able to communicate it effectively to those in your field and the lay audience,” Tantibanchachai said.

Remington Plewe, a senior in multidisciplinary design, created a product that makes it easier for quadriplegics — people who have partial or total loss of movement in their limbs and torso — to pedal hand bikes.

To use these bikes, quadriplegics need grasping devices, which are typically connected to a strap on the wrist that causes sores and chafing. Plewe’s product disperses pressure along the arm and connects in a way that allows people to pedal with their biceps.

Plewe received $200 through UROP, the undergraduate research opportunities program, allowing him to fund his project.

“It’s an easy way to get disposable money to put towards research,” Plewe said.

Nandini Deo, a sophomore in chemical engineering, said she got involved in undergraduate research through the Merrill Engineering Scholars Fellowship. Her research focused on air purification by breaking down particles in smog.

“I’ve gotten a lot more excited about science and about my major and about other majors,” Deo said. “Research has kept me really interested in school, and I hope that more people take advantage of it.”

The Office of Undergraduate Research coordinated with the Office of Undergraduate Studies and Honors Program to host the event. Hayes-Harb said the symposium was funded by her office and donations from the U’s Parent Fund, the Francis Family Foundation, the Lawrence T. and Janet T. Dee Foundation, and Sharon and Karl Schatten.

Students can get involved in next year’s symposium or general research by getting to know their professors, who are usually researchers in the fields they teach.

Hayes-Harb said her office has an undergraduate research advisor, Stephanie Shiver, with whom students can make an appointment. For more information on how to get involved, she recommended students visit the Office of Undergraduate Research’s website: our.utah.edu.

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