UROP presents undergraduate research symposium

Last Thursday, the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) held their third annual Spring Research Symposium to showcase and recognize ongoing undergraduate research projects at Georgia Tech.

Established in 2005, UROP helps undergrads find research opportunities at Tech in their field of interest or studies, and helps students come up with their own faculty-sponsored research projects.

UROP provides information sessions, chances for students to publish and present their work and most notably encourages undergraduate research by awarding the Presidential Undergraduate Research Award (PURA) to students for research funding.

This year’s UROP Spring Research Symposium has grown considerably from last year’s event, with over a hundred students on hand for about fifty-nine poster presentations and twenty-three oral presentations. Research projects from many schools were presented, in subjects ranging from literature and social issues to new methods of generating sustainable energy and nanotechnology.

“People need to learn how to express their research to people outside of their field, and this is good practice for presenting at professional conferences. [Students] should take advantage of every opportunity they get to present their work, such as for student organizations, faculty members, and research symposiums like this,” said Dr. Karen Harwell, Director of UROP.

“[This symposium] is one of the outlets for students to present their research, and see the research going on in other schools,” said Jenifer Vandagriff, a third-year STaC major who presented her work with the Second Life Augmented Reality project. Jenifer was among the growing number of presenters coming from the Ivan Allen College.

“[Presenting] at this symposium is more engaging than class presentations because everyone [in the class] knows what you’re talking about already. Here, it feels like you’re disseminating and informing others outside of your field of your research,” said Kamalakannan Radharamanan, a fourth-year Biomedical Engineering major.

Oral presentations began earlier in the afternoon in several rooms on the third floor of the Student Center, separated into schools and moderated by faculty members from their respective school.

Students and visitors were welcomed to sit in on the oral presentations and walk through the poster session.

Judges were present to evaluate research and presentations and to choose outstanding displays. Judges also wandered through the poster presentation area to review the presenters’ work.

The judges consisted of graduate students and professors who had volunteered for the symposium, many of whom commented on the high caliber of undergraduate research at Georgia Tech.

“I think the level of research for the undergrads here is incredible, and the collaboration with other schools and organizations is impressive,” said Peter Chamberlain, a Materials Science and Engineering graduate student.

“It was fun to see more undergraduate research and hear students talking about it… It’s great, and makes me wish I had been involved as an undergrad [researcher] when I was younger,” said Dr. Tris Utschig of CETL and the moderator of the oral presentations for AE, ME and EE.

By the end of the symposium, Dr. Ray Vito, Vice Provost of Graduate and Undergraduate Research at Tech, appeared at the podium in the ballroom to make further comments about the nature and benefits of undergraduate research.

“One of the things you can get from a place like Georgia Tech is undergraduate research,” Vito said. He also commented on the global economic situation in relation to topics like outsourcing. While the trend of jobs moving to countries like China and India might seem worrying, the level of research and number of patents in the United States, Europe and Japan remain much higher.

Awards were then presented to a student from each school for Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher, along with a monetary contribution to their research.

Awards for Outstanding Oral Presentations and Outstanding Posters were given afterwards to one group from each school. The exception to this was in the posters for the College of Engineering, in which the top three posters were awarded.

A list of the winners can be found at www.undergradresearch.gatech.edu/SpringSymposium.php.