Student Research Projects Shine at College of Science Symposium

Student Research Projects Shine at College of Science Symposium
Biotechnology senior Kevin Pegg investigates inhibitors on antibiotic resistance.
Trang Lu, a biotechnology senior, identifies bacteria under a microscope.

The College of Science's first-ever Summer Research Symposium showcased many significant student research projects, from battling antibiotic resistance to drug delivery alternatives to the impact of a feed additive on young pigs.

The Sept. 3 event featured 35 students in the colleges of Science, Engineering and CLASS who shared what they've learned with their peers and faculty. The symposium, attended by faculty and students, also demonstrated the importance of undergraduate research.

“I would say it's imperative,” says biotechnology senior Kevin Pegg, who investigates inhibitors on antibiotic resistance under Professor Peter Oelschlaeger. “Hands-on research stresses working independently and inter-dependently. Working independently forces one to recall all the previous knowledge learned in a classroom to investigate a problem without 24/7 supervision. Working inter-dependently puts one in a responsible and accountable state in which other lab members' projects depend on.

“Hands-on research on an undergraduate level is imperative to excel in the scientific community.”

Trang Lu, a senior who works with Biological Sciences Professor Jill Adler-Moore, is working on an alternative method of safely delivering large doses of antibiotics to infection sites to speed the healing process. As an undergraduate, Lu values the opportunity to conduct graduate-level research and apply what he's learned in class to a real-world setting.

“Concepts in the text books that seemed fuzzy before are now becoming clear and understandable,” says Lu, who plans to attend medical school. “Continuing to be involved in research will only make me a better care provider in the future, because it is important to understand the many different therapeutic treatments available and to be able to critically evaluate them for use in my patients.”

Students also learned from one another at the symposium. Biological sciences senior Cathryn De Guzman showed how her science research project has far-reaching effects, especially in the agriculture industry. Her project studies whether a feed additive, which is commonly given to adult pigs to increase muscle mass, is effective on young pigs.

“I really enjoy presenting to non-science majors especially because it gives me the opportunity to educate them on how important science is to the world and how we as students are able to make positive contributions to our society. This may even spark some interest in them to consider becoming a science major,” she says.

Preparing for the presentation is a learning experience, too. Students must evaluate and organize their research into a coherent presentation and demonstrate the practical applications. They also practice their public speaking and communication skills as they address a knowledgeable audience.

Various externally funded grant programs supported the students. Eleven are sponsored by the Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE), a student research program awarded to the university by the National Institutes of Health for mentoring and training underrepresented minority students to prepare them for doctoral work in the biomedical sciences. Nine students were funded by the College Cost Reduction and Access Research Apprenticeship program. The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Research-Apprentice Program, which supports up to two years of original undergraduate research, had nine presenters. Five students were sponsored by the university's Ronald McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program.