The German writer, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, once observed “Knowing is not enough. We must apply.”
This ideal could serve for what prompted 207 undergraduate students to go beyond the classroom and share their research discoveries Saturday at the 19th annual Undergraduate Research Conference.
The conference provided undergraduates with the unique opportunity to present research in a professional atmosphere either through an oral presentation or poster display. Students from all disciplines including communication, psychology and biochemistry participated.
Not only is the conference meant to help students apply what they have learned, but it also serves to give students a taste of what is to come if they wish to pursue graduate or professional degrees.
“It is a definite route of applying to be a more competitive applicant to graduate professional school,” said Tammy Hoyer, program director of advising services. “Whether you’re thinking of a master’s, Ph.D., or if you’re thinking of medical school, dental school, pharmacy or even if you’re going straight to the work world, it’s a way of polishing your public speaking skills. You’re taking complex information and making it into a form that the general public can understand.”
The event began with opening remarks at 8:30 a.m. The speakers Lora Jo Bossio, interim assistant vice chancellor, and Rex Perschbacher, dean of the UC Davis School of Law, urged the students to keep conducting research and to not give up their fascination for learning.
Following this, 128 students gave oral presentations in Wellman Hall. The oral presentations were organized into three sessions, each lasting an hour. During each session, four students were assigned to a room and were allotted 15 minutes each for their presentations. At the end the session, the students received a certificate of recognition for their efforts in research.
Jussle Del Rosario, a senior biochemistry and molecular biology major, opted to do an oral presentation. He presented his research on Lunasin, a novel soy peptide, a compound made of amino acids. His research suggested that Lunasin may interact with our bodies’ genes to prevent prostate cancer. He found that Lunasin increases both mRNA and protein levels of a certain gene called the UGT1A genes. These particular genes are important because they eliminate carcinogens from the body.
While Del Rosario was a bit nervous for his presentation, he wanted to make sure he got the information to the public.
“I share my research because it’s one of more important things in science,” said Del Rosario. “Often in science, when we learn things or when we do research, it’s so esoteric sometimes, and I want research to be more accessible so people who may not know a whole lot about science will be able to realize that science can benefit them directly.”
After the three oral presentation sessions, lunch was provided and keynote speakers, Barbara Horwitz, interim provost and executive vice chancellor, and Patricia Turner, vice provost for undergraduate studies, spoke on the students’ journey to discovery.
The final part of the conference consisted of approximately 79 poster displays. Students stood proudly by their laminated posters, eager to talk about their findings.
One such student was Pamela Chacha, a junior biochemistry and molecular biology major. Her research focused on starch morphology and biosynthesis in tomato plants. The lab where she conducts her research came up with a way to purify starch in the tomato. She is now cooperating with others to discover its main structure, morphology and pectin content in order to market it for industrial uses along with other starch producing plants like wheat.
This day was nerve-racking for Chacha, but she hopes to come back and present at the next conference.
“I think I will be back next year because I really enjoy presenting my research. I want people to know more about [my research] because before no one really knew anything about starch and now that it’s so versatile and exciting I want to share it with the world,” said Chacha.
In the end, the conference afforded students a way to connect with the campus and portray the true diversity of the student body’s interests, while gaining great skills. The students’ parents, family members, friends and the general public were able to witness firsthand how students are able to be part of the advances made in any particular field, applying their knowledge instead of just looking to books for answers.
“I think the values [gained] are multifaceted. First and foremost, I think you’re trained to ask good questions, collect good data and the like, so those skills in research are going to be valuable in whatever career you go for in life,” said Fred Wood, vice chancellor of UC Davis. “Secondly, I think it’s important to recognize that research is a main mission of a research university like UC Davis. So I think the more undergraduates can participate in that mission the more they’re going to feel a sense of belonging to this campus the more that they’ll understand what a research university is about.”
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