2017 Symposium Puts Students' Research and Innovative Spirit on Display

The 2017 Kent State University Undergraduate Research Symposium marked the event’s fourth year and boasted the biggest turnout yet.

Nearly 250 students presented 180 posters, almost a 40 percent increase over last year. The event highlighted Kent State students’ academic diversity, with 12 categories that represented three dozen disciplines. Most notably, the symposium saw participation from the arts and fashion nearly double over last year, and its 33 entries topped all other categories.

“I think there’s a new energy and enthusiasm around undergraduate research,” said Ann Gosky, Director of the Office of Student Research. “That was evident in the increased student participation and seeing a greater number of faculty stepping in to mentor students.”

Students said the experience whetted their appetites for research, created a more profound collegiate experience, and provided valuable skills and vital experiences they can leverage toward their futures. 

“I think it give undergraduates a great opportunity to practice their presentation skills and gain confidence for conferences,” said Robert Woodruff III. The junior biology major participated in his second symposium, and won first place for his presentation “Transgenerational Epigenetic Effect of Cocaine on Circadian Behavior and Cocaine Reward.”

Woodruff said his experience in the lab of Biological Sciences Professor J. David Glass, where he’s worked since his freshman year, will help him as he advances toward medical school. Woodruff hopes to become a surgeon.

Katherine Greskovich started research in her third week of college. Now a sophomore in the lab of Biochemistry Professor Songping Huang, Greskovich participated in her second undergraduate research symposium. She and her project partner Vincent Serapiglia claimed first prize for their presentation, “Investigation of Novel Application of Gallium Cysteinate Nanoparticles in Antibiotic-Resistant Bacterial Therapies.”

“It’s truly helped me figure out what I want to do with my life,” said Greskovich, a biochemistry major intending to pursue her Ph.D. She said the symposium helps her to learn how to organize her work. “It’s very good preparation for actually performing research in the future, because you have to collect data, write a formal abstract, and be able to present it in a concise and well-developed way.”

Both Woodruff and Greskovich also serve as Student Research Ambassadors, sharing their excitement about research with current and prospective Kent State students. 

Judges awarded 28 first-place prizes, with some of the larger categories like psychology, biology/ecology, and arts/fashion celebrating multiple first-prize winners.

The symposium also boasted firsts of a different kind. This year, Geography Professor Joe Ortiz presented the NASA Ohio Space Grant Award. That prize went to senior Dakota Bunner for his project, “Airfoil Three-Six-Zero: Wind Tunnel Experimentation at Low Reynolds Numbers for Vertical Axis Turbine Applications.”

Bunner, who will graduate in May with a degree in Aeronautical Systems Engineering Technology, said this was his first research experience. He worked on the independent project with CAEST Assistant Professor Blake Stringer. He plans to pursue a career in aerospace engineering research.

“It gave me that basic foundation to apply toward my career and educational goals,” Bunner said. “I’d have loved it if I’d started as freshman or sophomore. You get the experience of writing research papers, and you see the connection to the classes you’re taking and the textbook material. It gives you the perspective of real world application.”

Also among the 180 posters at the symposium were 14 by McNair Scholarship students. The federally-funded program prepares undergraduates for doctoral studies through research and other activity. 

On top of the 248 individual scholars who submitted abstracts for the symposium, another 70 students from the Provost Leadership Academy presented their research. These freshmen students study opportunities for the university to improve.

Kent State President, Dr. Beverly Warren, roundly praised the event and all its participants during the awards ceremony. 

“Your commitment to nurturing a culture of undergraduate scholarship and research at Kent State is inspiring,” she said. “It is also clear that you – our students at Kent State — understand the importance of scholarly engagement; of immersing yourselves in scientific and other research and creative endeavors to enrich your learning experiences and also to make a contribution to your disciplines; to begin to establish yourselves not only as consumers of knowledge, but also as knowledge creators.”

Media Contacts
Dan Pompili: 330-672-0731, dpompili@kent.edu

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