SD EPSCoR hosts 2nd annual Undergraduate Research Symposium

Posted on: August 25, 2015   |   Category: News & Updates

More than 150 undergraduate students participating in summer research at South Dakota public, private, and tribal colleges and universities presented their findings at SD EPSCoR’s second annual Undergraduate Research Symposium July 30, 2015, at the Ramkota Hotel and Conference Center in Pierre, S.D.

The purpose of the symposium was to provide undergraduate students experience presenting research to the public, network with other students and faculty, and connect with and learn about South Dakota graduate schools.

Victoria Biach, a junior biology and chemistry major at Northern State University in Aberdeen, S.D., presented her poster titled “Structural Identification of Natural Organic Matter.” Biach said presenting her poster at the symposium taught her how to better communicate her research to her audience.

“I learned how to better convey the research I participated in to an audience that has a wide range of understanding on the topic,” Biach said. “I got better at answering questions at the appropriate level with the appropriate amount of detail.”

A total of 156 students attended the symposium, a 39 percent increase from the previous year. Presentations were divided between two poster sessions in the morning and afternoon. The students were participating in research activities with faculty members in the SD EPSCoR BioSNTR and DakotaBioCon programs, as well as the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) programs from across the state.

NSF sponsors the REU programs to support active research participation by undergraduate students in NSF funded areas. Students who participate in a REU work closely with faculty members in a specific research area.

Other symposium attendees included members of the South Dakota Board of Regents and speakers Lina Patino, NSF program director in the Division of Earth Sciences and GRFP coordinator, and George Pharr, Chancellor’s Professor and McKamey Professor of Engineering at the University of Tennessee.

“It was impressive to see the quality of the research the students conducted this summer,” said Patino.

Students also participated in a poster competition for cash prizes. A separate competition was held for each poster session. Presentations were judged based on technical content, poster appearance, and oral presentation.

William Cross, an associate professor in the Department of Materials and Metallurgical Engineering at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, helped organize the poster competition and said each criterion was weighted equally because “they are the most important aspects of a scientific research poster” and enable students to learn from their presentations.

Cross said he commonly sees a gain in confidence in his students after participating in a poster competition, which relates to both the quality and understanding of their work.

“The poster session allows them to discuss with and receive feedback from a much larger group of people, which can focus and strengthen their interpretation.”

Competition Winners:

Poster Session I:

  • 1st – Bo Paulson
  • 2nd – Kirby Rickel
  • 3rd – (Tie) Samantha Wang & Brianna Grandprey

Poster Session II:

  • 1st – Phuong Pham
  • 2nd – Gavin Fenske
  • 3rd – Joseph Stevens