Celebrating Achievement and Highlighting the Diverse Range and Scope of Student Work and Research Opportunities at the 19th Annual Student Conference & Showcase at IU Southeast
By Audra Kalvar
A palpable buzz of nervous energy and excitement was in the air at the IU Southeast Student Conference and Showcase held on Thursday and Friday, April 20-21. The poster presentation area was packed with a wide range of projects and research on display that ran the gamut from a business school student conducting a financial statement analysis on Walmart to nursing students presenting their health promotion efforts at Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota, and from a geosciences student conducting archaeological research along the Ohio River with paleoenvironmental implications to chemistry and biology students exploring the use of tin in pharmaceuticals to prevent undesirable reactions.
This annual event highlights undergraduate and graduate work that represents 57 academic programs at IU Southeast. Posters and oral presentations have been a staple of the event and new this year was an art showcase. This year also marked increased participation from 2022, doubling to 303 students presenting to 65 judges over the two-day period.
Largest Student Research Conference in the IU System
According to opening remarks made at the Celebration and Awards luncheon on April 21st by Kelly Ryan, Ph.D. and interim chancellor of IU Southeast, the IU Southeast campus boasts the largest student research conference in the Indiana University system. The continued growth and success of the conference and showcase is a part of the overall Indiana University seven year strategic plan through 2030.
“IU Southeast stands out in our region by our commitment to providing applied research opportunities to undergraduate students,” said Lisa Hoffman, Ph.D. and dean for research and graduate studies at IU Southeast and the organizer of the conference and showcase. “One of our key campus goals is to increase undergraduate research and celebrate experiential learning. This event celebrates a wide variety of scholarly and creative activity. Students in some disciplines have significant scholarly projects that differ from traditional research, such as business analytics applications or planning and delivering services at health clinics. Students really value these hands-on opportunities to apply what they have learned. And presenting their projects here fosters speaking skills that students will carry with them into their professional careers.”
Art Showcase New This Year
After the hustle and bustle of poster and oral presentations, attendees were invited to walk over to Knobview Hall and experience a wide variety of fine art projects on display including photographs, digital composites, drawings, prints, ceramics, sculptures, and functional cardboard art designs.
“We were very excited to add an art showcase this year,” said Hoffman. We want to highlight many forms of scholarly activity, including artistic creation.”
Students Develop Skills Future Employers and Graduate Schools Want
From seasoned, polished seniors to enthusiastic freshman, students were eager to share their research and projects with the crowd of people throughout the two days.
One of the more technically advanced posters presented was “Exploring the Use of Tin in Activating 3,4-Dihydropyran in the Tetrahydropyranylation of Alcohols and Polyols” by Jordan Conard and Noah Davis.
“I am planning to go to medical school to become a surgeon and getting involved in research like this from a chemistry and pharmaceutical aspect was very helpful during the medical school application process,” said Jordan Conard, a senior biology major. “I have been an EMT since I was 18 years old and understanding both the people side and pharmaceutical side of where and how these medications are being developed and how we can improve the process was very interesting and beneficial to me.”
Conard’s research partner, Noah Davis, echoed these thoughts.
“I wanted to be a chemist since I was a young kid,” said Davis, a senior biochemistry major. “I just recently got accepted into Purdue’s Ph.D. program and honestly a big part of that was this research. Having years of research experience really set me apart from the rest of the crowd. Dr. Mensah was also a big part of this, he took me under his wing. I was pre-med at the time and he told me that he thought I had a real talent for chemistry and encouraged me to get involved in research. He told me if I didn’t like it, I could just do one semester and be done. Turns out I stuck around for two years and I want to continue doing this type of research for the rest of my life.”
Developing strong communication skills and creating engaging presentations are also integral components of future professional success – no matter the major.
Senior neuroscience major and future Ph.D. candidate, Anthony Sego, can attest to overcoming anxiety and developing successful presentations.
“In addition to my research poster on spatial probability learning in homing pigeons, I did an oral presentation on social anxiety because I had a lot of that throughout my life and I wanted to figure out why other people might have it,” said Sego. “What has helped me is, I guess, a little bit of exposure therapy and just putting myself out there and trying to challenge myself. But that’s hard for some people and we should find good solutions for them as well. Doing the research and presenting is probably the most important thing I’ve done here at IUS; it helped me to be more competent as a scientist and a science communicator. My professors, both in my class for research methods, teaching me how to do it, and then also doing the research have prepared me very well for graduate school. We went to another conference last Saturday to present different research and our research was a little bit higher caliber and I think that’s indicative of the quality of teachers here.”
Research & Project Presentation Opportunities for Everyone
According to a recent survey conducted by the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR), only an estimated 20% of all undergraduates participate in research. IU Southeast offers research opportunities for all undergraduate students at all stages of their academic career.
“As a freshman I was able to learn how to do research and how to present it,” said Katie Monroe, freshman majoring in criminal justice, sociology, and psychology. “I really like getting into the data of criminal analytics and I appreciate the opportunity to do research right away. I definitely see how this will help me in my future career.”