Research — not just something done by faculty

I’m a science fair girl. I come from a science fair family. The site of a tri-fold display board brings back fond memories of projects on biorhythms and on dementia and on the impact of environment on memory recall. These are projects that won awards at the state science day, people!

The projects I remember from those bygone days are nothing compared to the sophisticated research on display annually at the Denman Undergraduate Research Forum – the 2014 edition to be held on March 26 at the RPAC. The research happening everyday on campus – the discovery of new knowledge – is pretty impressive, even more so when we know that there are many, many undergraduate students who are contributing to and leading research efforts of their own. And that’s what we get to see at the Denman.

The Denman participants will present their research via a poster – and not like what you can find at the tent poster sales at the beginning of the school year:

They also present their findings orally to a pair of faculty judges. Participants are selected based on their abstract submissions, as the Denman is limited to only 550 projects. Recently, I had a chance to catch up with a student who I haven’t spoken with in a while, and he was gushing – gushing – about the three research projects with which he’s been involved in the last year. Three. He started his involvement in a professor’s lab as a first-year student. It’s never too early. And he’s not even presenting this year at the Denman – that’s how much great work  is happening here!

As you walk through the display floor, you never know what kinds of projects you’ll see. Some of the winners last year include projects titled:

  • Calculating Susceptibility from Local Field Inhomogeneities for Applications in Multiple Sclerosis Studies
  • Effect of Early Treadmill Training on Blood-Spinal Cord Barrier Permeability after Spinal Cord Injury in Mice
  • Biochemical Characterization of 6-phospho-β-glucosidases to Gain Insights into Cellobiose Utilization by Clostridium beijerinckii NCIMB 8052

I don’t know about you, but I love an intimidating title, not to mention the actual research behind it — for those of you wondering, Clostridium beijerinckii NCIMB 8052 is “a saccharolytic, strictly anaerobic, mesophylic, motile, rod-shaped bacteria with oval, sub-terminal spores.”

Fortunately for me, the projects aren’t all in what we used to call the hard sciences. There are also the categories of business, arts, and humanities. Some winners last year in these categories included:

  • Let’s Talk Money: Impulsivity, Social Influence and Consumers’ Saving Behavior
  • Wyrd: The Woes of Postmodernity
  • Corruption and International Aid Allocation: A Complex Dance

So, if you find yourself inspired to find out what fascinating work your fellow students are doing, check out the Denman. I’ll be the one trying to look 20 years younger and setting up the card-table.