For decades, university research was the work of graduate students. Saturday, however, UT undergraduates will show how that paradigm has shifted.
Featuring the work of 71 students, the fifth annual Undergraduate Research Symposium will begin at 9 a.m. in the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy, concluding at 5 p.m.
"If you're already in research, it's an opportunity for you to practice communicating your research to a general audience, forcing you to think more about the bigger picture and why what you do matters," said Melissa Lee, a senior in College Scholars who helped organize the event. "Whether you're already in research or not, it's also a great opportunity to learn about the other research going on at UT."
Student presentations will vary across six different sessions; research on hybrid car design will be followed by research on an animal model for post-traumatic stress disorder. The intricacies of philosophy of science will be explained alongside the necessity of food safety.
Lee co-founded the symposium's parent organization, Undergraduate Research Student's Association, in 2010 with fellow College Scholar senior Mark Remec. The two, who are Haslam Scholars as well, saw a need to address the "lacking" undergraduate research community at UT. As grad schools and job markets have become increasingly selective, Lee said research experience is invaluable.
"Things like the symposium showcase how productive our students are and how the things that we do as undergraduates matter," she said, "not just within the microcosm of the university, but for the whole world."
Patrick McKenzie, a freshman in biochemistry and cellular and molecular biology, is one such student who's been rather productive. He will present "An Investigation of the Gypsy Insulator Complex and its Effects on Cell-Cycle Progression," research on DNA replication he's conducted in the lab of Mariano Labrador.
"The symposium is a fantastic opportunity to practice presentation skills, which are vital for a career in any area of research," McKenzie said. "Since research is something I plan to be involved in for the rest of my life, I'm looking forward to this weekend.
"It will be my first real engagement with the presentation and peer interaction processes of research."
During lunch, Karen Rommelfanger, Ph.D. and director of the Emory Neuroethics Program, will deliver a keynote presentation entitled "Better than Well? Neuroenhancement and Beyond." As attendees munch on Jai Dee Thai & Japanese Cuisine, they'll also gain insight into the ethics of the use of cognitive enhancers such as Adderall.
More information can be found on the URSA newly launched website at http://www.ursautk.org/. Other sponsors for the symposium are the Office of Undergraduate Research, the Student Success Center, the Chancellor's Honors Program, UTK Neuroscience and Pursuit: The Journal of Undergraduate Research.