Renee Estephan didn’t know much about academic life outside of the biology lab. Not anymore.
Since leaving the lab to work on her research project involving water conservation efforts in the grip of a punishing drought, Estephan has gained a new perspective.
“I never thought I would be doing a project like this as a biology major,” said Estephan, who is a senior. “This took me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to learn different things.”
Conducting her research meant standing in front of nine city councils and meeting with various municipal commissions to introduce her project, titled “Water Warriors: Investigating the Efficacy of Promotional Efforts on Water Conservation in Los Angeles County.” The work is an outcrop of her “PolyPotable” drought project presented at the research conference last March.
Estephan and nearly three dozen other Cal Poly Pomona students from many disciplines used the summer to pursue intellectual passions. They had the opportunity to showcase their work at the inaugural Creative Activities and Research Symposium held Aug. 19 in the University Library.
A key component of Estephan’s current research found that many residents have heard about water conservation initiatives, yet most have not heeded the call to action. Estephan estimates that she spent 10 hours a week on the project from the start of the spring quarter to the end of July. She plans to take additional surveys in the fall quarter and extend her research.
“It felt good to spread the word about water conservation. I’m glad I had the chance to do that,” she said. “It was definitely a summer well-spent.”
A sampling of the research project subjects tells the scope of the symposium: Methods to help alleviate the angst faced by female engineering students in a male-dominated industry, the rocky course faced by Chicanos moving from community colleges to four-year universities, the decline of the Bunker Hill neighborhood in Los Angeles during the interwar years from 1918-1941.
More than a dozen other projects analyzed transit issues associated with living in a car-clogged basin. Poster presentations examined the treatment of bovine infections, synthetic adhesives and thermal energy storage.
In addition to the research presentations, students also gave performances in dance and music and poetry readings. The usual tranquility of the library’s Grand Reading Room was turned into a performance space.
“We want to celebrate every student’s research and activity,” said Winny Dong, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research. “When we say research, we don’t just mean lab research or social science research, we mean everything that the students do to deepen their understanding of their discipline.”
Students from Pasadena City, Citrus and Cypress colleges who worked in labs with Cal Poly Pomona faculty over the summer presented their work. The university also collaborated with the University of California Center on Economic Competitiveness in Transportation through the civil engineering department to present student projects.
“The skills that you were developing are highly valued and, I would argue, essential to finding answers and solutions to many of the perplexing problems we face. Every sector of society needs smart and creative people with the discipline and tools you’re developing,” Sylvia Alva, the new provost and vice president for academic affairs, told presenters. “Your research findings may provide a new angle or solution to our most pressing and perplexing problems.”
Unlike the annual research conference, the projects were not judged for nomination to the California State University System-Wide Student Research Competition. The symposium was open to any student presenter who had the approval of a faculty mentor and provided an outlet for students who conducted research solely in the summer. Dong says that she would like to work in the performance elements from the summer symposium into the annual research conference.