GV hosts seventh annual research fair

GVL / Emily Frye      
Grand Valley State University faculty member Stephen Glass, Movement Science Department, talks to undergraduate students about different research opportunities for their intended majors on Oct. 6th.

GVL / Emily Frye Grand Valley State University faculty member Stephen Glass, Movement Science Department, talks to undergraduate students about different research opportunities for their intended majors on Oct. 6th.

The Grand Valley State University Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship encouraged students and faculty to ‘Find your geek’ during the seventh annual Undergraduate Research Fair this week. The event showcased 32 departments and programs from the university.

Susan Mendoza, OURS director, said between 300 and 400 students visit the fair each year, and those numbers keep growing. Mendoza said the main goal of the fair is to help connect undergraduate students with faculty from departments that interest them.

“We want to make sure they see the opportunities and have the information to make the most of those opportunities,” she said. “The sooner students start thinking about it, the sooner they can develop their skill set and figure out what they’re curious about.”

Unlike other events the OURS hosts, the research fair features GVSU faculty, who “really love connecting with students,” Mendoza said.

“We try to make these connections for students to do their own independent work and contribute to a body of knowledge,” she said. “We wanted to make sure there’s an office providing support for students and faculty.”

She advised students to think about questions and topics that go beyond the classroom, such as topics that are creative and have the potential to make a change.

“A lot of times, students don’t think about what research supports what they want to do,” Mendoza said. “Research is about so much more. It’s about the transformative nature of the work you’re doing and how it can change the world.”

Bopi Biddanda, GVSU’s Michigan Space Grant Consortium affiliate, said the fellowship is like a “baby NASA program for Michigan” that funds students every year. These students are typically sophomores and juniors interested in scientific research. They receive a faculty mentor who assists them over the summer.

“It’s pretty broad,” Biddanda said. “These students go a long way. They’re participating in the highest quality of research in the world. That puts them on a different level right away.”

Lindsay Czap, GVSU senior and mathematics major, was one of the students who took part in the Student Summer Scholars program. Czap worked with a faculty mentor on a 12-week project that she chose.

For her project, she conducted a game similar to 20 Questions that focused on people who lied in their answers.

“The first player would choose a number and then the second player would ask ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions in order to guess the chosen number,” she explained. “In mathematics research, we choose examples of situations that we think are interesting. Research within mathematics is incredibly flexible.”

Czap said she was able to create relationships with faculty, add to her resume and increase her confidence in her own work. Presenting her project was the most exciting part for her, she said.

“Before I did undergraduate research at Grand Valley it seemed like an activity that only professionals participate in,” she said. “Choosing to do research as an undergrad made me realize that I didn’t have to wait to be a part of the mathematical community. I had the potential to contribute something valuable to my peers. That’s something that a lot of undergraduates don’t realize: Your research can make a difference.”

Brianna Powell, a senior biology major, also participated in the program, conducting research on how changes in temperature and weather affect primates’ behaviors. Powell agreed with Czap that the experience changed her views, leading her to consider ecology, evolutionary biology and animal behavior.

“This project helped me bring these interests into light, and I am now searching for ways to further develop them,” Powell said. “I am applying to vet school to get involved in ecological research and I am also applying to masters programs in which I will complete a thesis.”

Other tables at the fair included University Libraries, Grand Valley Journal of History, computing and information systems, social work and liberal studies.

To learn more about undergraduate research, visit www.gvsu.edu/ours/undergraduate-research-fair-507.htm.