Student Scholars Day features research projects

GVL / Courtesy -
Brian Fagan

GVL / Courtesy – Brian Fagan

Allison Ribick

Student Scholars Day offers the opportunity for Grand Valley State University students to showcase their faculty-mentored work and research to the Grand Rapids and campus community.

The Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship will host the 20th annual Student Scholars Day (SSD) on Wednesday, April 8 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at various locations on the GVSU Allendale Campus.

“Students do incredible work (at GVSU) – it’s amazing what they do,” said Susan Mendoza, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship. “But there’s not always the opportunity to showcase and talk about it. SSD provides an event where you can see multiple disciplines in a short amount of time.”

Poster presentations, oral presentations, discussion and panel sessions, fine arts exhibits and performances are the ways students will present their research. Presentations will be at places like the Kirkhof Center, Henry Hall and the Mary Idema Pew Library.

When SSD first started, it was called Student Research Day. It was formed within the division on math and science, and had roughly 100 presentations.

This year, there will be 361 presentations, exhibits and performances by 531 students – with the help of 200 faculty mentors.

“It’s much more diverse in discipline than it has been in the past,” Mendoza said. “We have a lot of humanities presentations this year coming out of modern languages, history and classics.”

For some faculty members, SSD is one of their favorite days because they get the chance to see all of the interesting topics students are interested in, Mendoza said.

“It’s a collaborative effort between the students and the faculty members to prepare these presentations – so it’s very time intensive,” Mendoza said.

For students, conducting research not only looks good for potential graduate schools or employers, but also helps expand their communication skills.

“It’s also an opportunity to learn how to present complex information in a meaningful, but appropriate, way for your audience,” Mendoza said. “For example, for some students in the lab sciences, it’s translating the work they’re doing to someone that doesn’t have a background in that area.”

Dallas Rohraff, a sophomore at GVSU majoring in cell and molecular biology, is an undergraduate research ambassador – a program put on through the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship.

She participated in the Student Summer Scholars program in 2014. Her research focused on evaluating essential oils for antibiotic activity.

Rohraff admitted that the idea of doing independent research was intimidating. But, as the summer progressed, she grew more independent and gained confidence.

“This personal growth has really inspired me to go further in my research career,” Rohraff said. “I am more prepared for many of my future classes and have a tendency to gain a deeper understanding of the material.”

Rohraff’s experience with research made her realize she wants to pursue research as a career.

“Research lets you develop a project of your own and can be a major step in helping you decide what you want to do after graduation,” Rohraff said. “It’s also really fun.”

Additionally, Rohraff expressed her excitement to present on her findings at SSD and learn of what other students are working on.

“For anyone interested in research, I recommend attending SSD,” Rohraff said. “You can walk around, see what projects interest you, and you have the opportunity to talk to others conducting research on campus to get more information.”

Through research, students develop various relationships – whether they come from coworkers, scholars or mentors, Rohraff noted.

Student Scholars Day will also include keynote speaker Dr. Brian Fagan, who will discuss his research on how climate change has affected human history.

“A Warming World and Changing Seas: An Archaeologist Looks at Climate Change” will occur on April 8 at 7 p.m. in the Grand River Room at the Kirkhof Center.

“I think the part that captivates folks the most about (Fagan) is the breadth and depth of his work,” Mendoza said. “He’s also someone that makes the information accessible. He took his discipline of archaeology and applied it to a topic that folks hadn’t always thought about.”

To see a list and schedule of the presentations, visit and click on schedule builder.