On Nov. 3, 53 presenters from various academic backgrounds and interests and over 100 audience members convened for the Fall Undergraduate Research Symposium, an annual event hosted by Academic Affairs. This event, spanning a four-hour window, provided a platform for these students to present their research projects while vying for recognition in the form of three distinct awards: Best Research, Best Presentation, and Best in Category. The competition was divided into two categories: STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) with 19 groups and Business & Social Science with 17 groups presenting. The event commenced with three-minute presentations from each group as participants introduced, explained, and underlined the importance of their research. Following these short presentations, the students and faculty congregated in the halls to view each poster, asking participants clarifying questions about their research based on their presentations or out of curiosity about each group’s findings. 

For all participants, the symposium epitomized a culmination of extensive planning, research, and hard work. Students cited a wide variety of motivations for showcasing their research in the symposium such as being an extension of their coursework or pursuing research independently. For Celia Forster ’24, the symposium was an opportunity to present their work as part of the Dean’s Undergraduate Fund (DURF), awarded to undergraduate students in any subject to pursue research over the summer. Celia was driven to present her project, “Generative AI’s Potential in Chinese Higher Education,” which “explores how generative AI can be implemented in Chinese higher education institutions in a culturally responsive manner.” She explained that the project “pushed [her] out of [her] comfort zone and challenged [her] to gain a deeper understanding of [her] project.” 

Similarly, for some students, their research was offshoots of passion projects, such as in the case of Tate Pan ’24, who states, “I have been a mindfulness practitioner and I want to investigate its effect on meaning processing. I am taking this research experience to develop future research related to mindfulness and meaning comprehension.” As part of DURF, Tate was able to pursue and present his research titled, “Mindfulness Training Increases Cognitive Effort in Understanding Meaning” which seeks to “explore the neurological evidence for mindfulness practices effect on language meaning processing.” For the winner of “Best Research” in the category of Business & Social Science, Maanyaa Jain ’25, her research presented her the opportunity to learn more about her home city of Jaipur, India, an idea initially spurred by her Urban Political Ecology course, taught by Professor Klingberg, who supported her as mentor for the symposium. Her research, titled, “Dirty Work in Jaipur: A Pilot Study on Waste Collection in Postcolonial Urban Communities sought to examine how “Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 2016 Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) altered the relationships between gully-residents, waste-pickers and waste in Jaipur, India.” Maanyaa intends to take her research a step further and hopes that this will serve as her capstone project. 

Each semester, the Undergraduate Research Symposium brings together a diverse group of students, each with their unique research pursuits and motivations, all seeking to showcase their hard work and dedication. This semester’s event not only celebrated their academic achievements but also served as a platform for personal growth and the exchange of valuable knowledge. As Celia aptly put it, “For students who are considering taking part in the symposium, I say go for it! It is a supportive environment to take your research to the next level and gather insights from your peers and faculty here in our community.” The symposium truly encapsulates the spirit of academic curiosity, collaboration, and the pursuit of excellence.