Participation doubles in Lamar University undergraduate research expo

Lamar University’s Fourth Annual Undergraduate Research Expo, held Friday, April 21, surpassed its expected growth with a major leap in attendance, number of presentations and student involvement from the 2016 event.

“The annual undergraduate research Expo has become a proud tradition at Lamar University,” said Kumer Das, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research. “The Expo, open to all students in all disciplines, offers students the opportunity to highlight the results and progress of their academic, research and scholarly work. This annual event recognizes and promotes student scholarly activities in research and creative production and celebrates collaboration among faculty and students within and across disciplines.”

“Undergraduate research and creative activities are high impact educational practices with long-lasting benefits,” said Catalina Castillón, assistant director of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity. “The 2017 Expo was a great showcase of Lamar University's commitment to undergraduate research. As a university, we are at the leading edge of undergraduate research in Texas.”

The 2017 conference included 120 presentations by 250 LU students mentored by 88 faculty members representing 28 academic departments, a significant increase from last years numbers when 59 scholarly research projects were presented by 98 students mentored by 43 faculty.

The exposition is a unique way for students to gain experience in academia, helping them to refine their research and presentation skills as well as receive feedback and tips from others, Castillón said. 

“This research expo was an incredible experience for me because it’s the first time I’ve been involved with anything that has this kind of importance,” said Humberto Jimenez, a senior double majoring in advertising and Spanish from Beaumont. “It really opened my mind to what all I can do with my education.”

The Office of Undergraduate Research offers research grants each year to undergraduate students to support their research and creative activities. The grant is designed to encourage undergraduate students to participate in scholarly work mentored by at least one LU faculty mentor. The work is unique in the sense that no part of it should be financially sponsored or accommodated by a different program at the time of submission. However, further development of the project beyond the initiation of the grant is highly encouraged, Das said.

Currently, the Office of Undergraduate Research offers 35 such OUR grants, the highest to date. All students involving in these projects presented at this year’s Expo. The increase both OUR grants and Expo participation is accompanied with the increase in quality too, Das said. Two OUR grant recipients (Keely Townley Smith in 2014 and Chris York in 2017) have been awarded the Goldwater Scholarship in the last 3 years, many students receive national fellowships and most of the OUR grant recipients are going to prestigious graduate programs, he said.

In the afternoon, a poster exposition and oral presentations allowed attendees and judges to learn about the students’ research. There were also presentations from guest speaker Rissa Potter, executive director of the Council of Public University Presidents and Chancellors, and keynote speaker James Bruce, professor of electrical engineering emeritus at MIT and vice president for Information Systems emeritus.

A banquet and award ceremony closed out the expo. Each winner received a monetary award from his or her respective dean and a certificate from the Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities. The winners and their corresponding colleges are as follows:

College of Business:  The student awarded for talks was Joshua Gibbs (Accounting) mentored by Enrique Venta. Students awarded for posters were Jean Kim (Construction Management) under Mahdi Safa; Ryan Malone (Construction Management) under Mahdi Safa; and Lance Vargas (Human Resource Management) under Mahdi Safa.

College of Engineering: Students awarded for posters and talks were Carlos Cabellero (Physics) mentored by Cristian Bahrim; John Gust (Mechanical Engineering) mentored by Keivan Davami and Ali Beheshti; Emily Ochoa (Chemical Engineering) under Cengiz Sen; Molly Ross (Civil Engineering) under Mein Jao, Dan Su, T. Thuy Minh Nguyen and Paul Bernazzani; and Jiaxuan Xu (Mechanical Engineering) under Ramesh Guduru and Matthew Hoch.

College of Arts & Sciences: Students awarded for talks were Rebecca Butler (History) under Mary Scheer; Julia Gros (Spanish) under Catalina Castillón; and Jason Miller (Mathematics) under Jennifer Daniel. Students awarded for posters were Caroline Nwandu (Biochemistry) under Perumalreddy Chandrasekaran; Fredrick Ryans (Computer Science) under Sujing Wang; Weslynn Taylor (Chemistry) under Ozge Gunaydin-Sen; Carlo Vanz (Biology) under Ashwini Kucknoor, Eric Yeager (Biology) under Ashwini Kucknoor; and An Vo (Psychology) under Jeremy Shelton.

College of Education & Human Development: Julian VanDevender (Interdisciplinary Studies) mentored by Dr. Julia Yoo and Shelby Garbee (Education) under Mamta Singh.

College of Fine Arts & Communication: Amy Morris (Studio Art) mentored by Donna Meeks and Alexandra Sokolova (Corporate Communication) mentored by Jian Raymong Rui and Natalie Tindall.

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