30 universities represented
Undergrad researchers present poster symposium
PULLMAN, Wash. - More than 50 undergraduates who did faculty-mentored research at Washington State University presented their findings from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Friday, Aug. 3, in the Smith Center for Undergraduate Education (CUE) at the Summer 2012 Undergraduate Research Poster Symposium.
Hosted by the Office of Undergraduate Research, a unit within the University College, the event featured students from around the nation, including WSU. More than 40 faculty from the university served as advisors for the students, who hailed from over 30 universities, including Yale, Purdue, Northwest Indian College, Yakima Valley Community College, and many more.
"Their work represented the results of at least 10 weeks of full-time research activities, says Shelley Pressley, director of Undergraduate Research. "Students took ownership of their projects, which are mentored, unique, and appropriate to the discipline they work in. Their findings were then disseminated through this poster session.
Students' posters were positioned according to the program with which they were associated. In total, there were eight research experience groups that presented. Four were NSF-funded Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) programs, while the rest were similar summer opportunities supported by the USDA and other grant and funding sources. More than $300,000 of federal grant money was brought to WSU to support the research.
About a fourth of the presenters were undergraduates from WSU, such as Kassiopeia Smith, a junior majoring in material science and engineering. She worked with advisor David Bahr, the director of the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at WSU, to study carbon nanotube mats. The properties of these structures have major applications in medical, aerospace, and consumer electronic technologies.
Another WSU student, Corinna Cisneros, worked with Soumik Banerjee, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, to understand why the electricity yield of organic solar cells is less than that of silicon-based cells.
"This was a great chance for me to talk about my research, says Cisneros, "and it was a lot of fun to see what other students were working on.
Lucy Cheadle, a sophomore chemical engineering major from Washington University in St. Louis did her research for the USDA-funded Northwest Advances Renewables Alliance. She created an "oven dried method for disposing of forest slash with mentor Daniel Schwartz, a Boeing-Sutter Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Washington. The resulting biochar can be used as a natural coal replacement or soil amendment.
Another researcher, Julian Jones of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, brought his passion to the symposium in the form of french fries. The sophomore chemical engineering major studied the darkening of fried potato tubers caused by sugar buildup that occurs during storage. Mentored by N. Richard Knowles, chair of the Department of Horticulture, Jones' research has major implications for potato growers, as darkened potatoes will typically not be purchased by major distributors or users, like McDonalds.
"It was tough, eating all those french fries, jokes Jones. "But someone had to do it. And in the end, we found that heat stress is what causes the darkening.
Approximately 200 visitors, from advisors to graduate students to family members and guests, attended the event.
For more information about undergraduate research opportunities, or an online copy of the event's abstract booklet, visit UndergraduateResearch.wsu.edu.