The Student Center Ballroom was filled with rows of posters hung against blue curtains. Students in blazers and suits stood next to their presented hundreds of research projects at the biannual Auburn Research Student Symposium.
For months, these undergraduate and graduate students prepared for the event on Tuesday. The event was host to 580 students who signed up to present and 400-500 judges.
The symposium had different presentations displayed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. throughout the day, with different colleges within the University presenting at different times.
“It helps [students] with professional development, so they get a, kind of a low-risk, low stakes opportunity to practice their communication skills and how to communicate their research to people at a broad audience,” said Lorraine Wolf, director for undergraduate research and a member of the organizing committee for the research symposium.
Wolf said while judges are from different disciplines, this is important because it helps students convey their information to people outside of their field.
Students who want to get involved with research should seek out a faculty mentor, Wolf said.
“We’re hoping this falls in line with the president’s mission to increase research and our research profile at the University,” Wolf said.
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One researcher, Tegan Walker, found her research passion after serving in the Peace Corps for three years in Panama.
While in Panama, Walker worked with the population to address their needs such as building fish ponds that would provide food security.
She has brought her knowledge back to Auburn and has conducted her research while also pursuing her doctorate in agriculture education with a focus on international development.
“The student research symposium at Auburn University is a great opportunity for students to get experience showing their posters or oral presentations for their research,” Walker said.
Thomas Brown, senior in chemical engineering and an undergraduate researcher in the biochemistry department has been studying a biochemical substrate called Luciferin with other researchers Xingchen Huang, Patrick Donnan, Kirsta Channell and Steven Mansoorabadi.
Luciferin is a substrate that produces light, however, it will oxidize, meaning it will change into a different substrate, if exposed to the atmosphere.
“This has been a really big problem for our lab, because we obviously we’re trying to handle Luciferin, and we keep losing it, and it’s converted into the air-oxidized product,” Brown said.
Having studied their topic for over a year and a half, the team decided to present some of their work at the symposium as they are beginning to understand what is happening.
“Conducting research, nothing ever really quite goes according to plan,” Brown said. “So you try to structure it out, you try to figure out what you’re going to do when and then you have to be dynamic enough to deal with unexpected results.”
Brown said one difficulty that came with presenting was narrowing the information down to what the team would showcase.
His advice to future presenters was to start early, while Walker said it is important to make sure that all guidelines are followed.
An awards ceremony for the symposium will be held at 5 p.m. on April 18 with speaker Michael Zabala, associate professor in mechanical engineering.
“Just have a good time,” Brown said. “The point of science is to share your thoughts and your findings with other people.”
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