Conference shows 328 projects
Students show research at annual conference
Published: Thursday, April 26, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 22:04
What do ancient Peruvian ruins, comic strips, summer camps and the effects of eye blinking have in common?
They all made up only a fraction of the topics discussed at the Student Research Conference, which took over the fourth floor of the Davis Center April 19.
Now in its fifth year, the conference was a daylong event open to all undergraduate, graduate and medical students who pursued research and wanted to share their results with the community.
“The turnout this year has been phenomenal,” program coordinator Andrea Elledge said. “We have over 360 students participating this year, which is more than we’ve ever had before.”
This year’s conference included 364 students – of which 203 were undergraduates, 161 graduates – and 328 projects, Elledge said.
Although students from the College of Arts and Sciences were the most abundant with 143 participants, each college had representation.
Honors College Dean Abu Rizvi said there was a 40 percent increase in student participation from the previous year.
“Sometimes students think that classroom learning is the only way of pursuing knowledge,” Rizvi said. “But learning also involves being able to apply the content knowledge you learn in the classroom by extending into new areas.”
These new areas proved to be quite diverse, as a quick glance through the program guide showed: oral presentations included titles such as “Creating Taste of Place for Vermont: An Analysis of Consumers’ Willingness to Pay,” “Excavating Desire,” “Darker Shades of Green: The Dilemma’s of Green Consumerism,” and “Escaping Irene.”
The myriad of poster presentations also ranged from familiar issues of social policy, the environment, psychology and education to topics that required a little more background knowledge, like senior Kanita Chaudhry’s presentation, “Qualification of Protein Phosphorylation in Cardiac Troponin I and Myosin Binding Protein-C.”
Senior Natalie Bishop presented research under the name “Grassroots Neighborhood Leaders in Vermont: A Qualitative Analysis of the Rewards, Challenges,” which studied the objectives of various local grassroots coalitions.
Bishop, who spent a year and half on her project, said she had always been interested in grassroots change and thought researching had been a great experience.
“It’s been rewarding, but it’s a huge project that you have to invest a lot in,” she said. “It’s hard to condense a 50-page paper into a poster presentation.”
Senior Gain Robinson worked in a research lab for two years before he was able to present his findings, “The Effects of Secretin on Extinction Eyeblink Conditioning.”
Using an animal model that measured eye blink conditioning and coordinated responses, Robinson likened his project to the Pavlovian operant conditioning model, in which Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov trained a dog to salivate using a ringing bell followed by food.
Robinson said his findings showed that the regulation of ion channels was an important aspect of associative learning, and that they could possibly be applied to humans as well.
“I transferred [to UVM] because I wanted to get involved with research, and I’m positive I want to go into a career of research,” he said. “It’s one of the most satisfying things you can do.”
Senior Loreen Teetelli’s research led her to the Sinsicap Valley of Peru in 2011, where she and another student mapped about 20 percent of the Cerro Huancha ruins.
The site is estimated to have been around since 2,000 B.C., and her research partner is currently attempting to prove that the ruins once belonged to the Incans, Teetelli said.
“I loved it; it’s really exciting to be in the field,” she said. “It’s an experience that everyone should have.”
The conference was primarily coordinated between the Office of the Vice President for Research and the Honors College, but Rizvi said a multitude of organizations aided in setting it up, including the Center for Teaching and Learning, the Graduate Student Senate, the Jeffords Center and the McNair Scholars Program.
“In other words, many different groups and individuals coordinate the work of the conference, showing how broad-based the support is for student research and creative activity at UVM,” Rizvi said.
The greatest reward of student research is the student’s ability to collaborate with professors and explore his or her academic interests to find out what he or she may want to pursue, he said.
“There are also ancillary benefits,” Rizvi said. “Grad schools and employees will be impressed by your ability to carry out long-term projects.”