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Record turnout marks research symposium

More than 200 students, faculty and family members gather in McKinly Laboratory on Aug. 10 for UD’s fifth annual Summer Research Symposium.
3:30 p.m., Aug. 23, 2005--More than 200 students, faculty and family members gathered in McKinly Laboratory on Aug. 10 for UD’s fifth annual Summer Research Symposium for undergraduates from the Colleges of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Marine Studies and Health and Nursing Sciences.

During the symposium, which opened with a plenary lecture on “Getting Graphic About the Science of Fat,” by Dennis Liu, senior program officer at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a record 97 students gave talks and displayed posters on topics ranging from “Visualizing Breast Cancer Metastasis Using a New In Vivo Chick Embryo Model System,” to “Evidence for Hyal3 as a Murine Reproductive Hyaluronidase.”

“If you can meet the challenge of explaining science to an audience that doesn’t have the background, that’s a true accomplishment,” Liu said after his lecture. “Dumbing it down doesn’t work; you need to appeal to their curiosity and show them how research is relevant. You can do that even for more difficult topics. Undergraduate research is really a keystone. It’s important in training the next generation of scientists. The program here at UD is really a paragon. It’s a great program.”

The symposium was part of three-day "Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences in View" sessions and one of several end-of-summer undergraduate research presentations sponsored by organizations that provide summer research scholarships in life sciences for undergraduate students--the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's (HHMI) Undergraduate Science Education Program, UD Undergraduate Research Program, Charles Peter White Fellowships, Beckman Scholars Program, UD Chapter of Sigma Xi, Ronald McNair Scholars Program, College of Marine Studies, National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program and Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network Program-Delaware Biotechnology Institute.

Brian Demarest, a sophomore environmental science major, explains his research on “Land Use Effects on Water Quality.”
Brian Demarest, a sophomore environmental science major, said his presentation, “Land Use Effects on Water Quality,” was inspired by the fact that 90 percent of all water in Delaware is considered impaired.

“What we are hoping to do with this is see if the new urban development projects are having an impact on the water quality and the environment,” Demarest said.

Amanda Kilby, a sophomore animal science major, said she had a “really great experience” working on her presentation, “The Influence of Marek’s Disease Virus Transcription Regulator Meq on Interleukin-6 Promotor Activity.”

“I was actually surprised that my advising faculty member, Carl J. Schmidt, associate professor of animal and food sciences, selected me to do research as a freshman,” Kilby said. “It just goes to show the commitment that UD faculty have to their students. It’s nice to actually have associated real-life experience with what you read in a textbook.”

Candice Johnson, a junior environmental science major from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania: “I now think of myself as a scientist; before this I was just a science student.”
Candice Johnson, a junior environmental science major from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, said her summer research at UD on “Classification of Viral Communities Based on the Fluorescence Intensity of Viral Particles Stained with SYBR Gold” changed her perception of her role in science.

“I now think of myself as a scientist; before this I was just a science student,” Johnson said. “It has been wonderful; I went on educational cruises with my laboratory partners. It’s more than I could ever imagine I’d get out of it. The professors were very open, helpful and friendly. That’s UD!”

Colleen M. Cheong, a sophomore biology major, said the summer was not only more enjoyable because of her research on “Developmental Expression Pattern of Calcium and Integrin-Binding Protein-1 (CIB-1),” but “an experience that helps undergraduates understand what research is all about.”

“The nice thing is to be able to focus solely on your project. Even though it’s a lot of work, being able to see yourself doing all the work is great,” Cheong said. I plan on working o the project for the entire year. Hopefully, I’ll stay with my lab until my senior year. I’d like to do my senior thesis on my current work.”

The symposium and the summer enrichment program, conceived by David Usher, associate professor of biological sciences and assistant director of the HHMI program, is designed to enhance scholarship-funded laboratory research conducted during the summer by undergraduate students in biological sciences, chemistry and biochemistry, medical technology, physical therapy, animal and plant sciences, and chemical engineering. The enrichment program includes a series of speakers who bring their insights about the world of scientific research to students during their summer stay on campus.

Colleen Cheong, a sophomore biology major, explains her research findings to Dennis Liu, senior program officer at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
“Holding an event like this is very important for the students; it brings closure to the project and havng so many people attend makes it very special,” Hal White, professor of biochemistry who directs the HHMI program and helped organize the enrichment program and symposium, said. “The University of Delaware is one of the premier universities in the country with respect to undergraduate research.”

Through the Undergraduate Research Program, which draws about 600 participants each year, apprenticeships with faculty mentors give talented, motivated undergraduates a chance to see and take part in what is happening on the front lines of discovery. Every college, department and research center provides opportunities for interested students to do hands-on research.

Article by Martin Mbugua
Photos by Kathy F. Atkinson

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