Undergraduates showcase research at symposium | RecordCourier.com

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Undergraduates showcase research at symposium

Biochemistry and molecular biology student Katie Speirs researches enzymes from breast cancer cells in the University of Nevada, Reno’s pharmacology lab. Speirs is one of the 83 undergraduates who will be presenting research projects at the Nevada Undergraduate Research Symposium at the Joe Crowley Student Union April 23.

Undergraduate students from the University of Nevada, Reno, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and Sierra Nevada College will showcase their research at the Nevada Undergraduate Research Symposium held in the Joe Crowley Student Union on Wednesday.

The symposium gives students a platform to highlight the large breath of research conducted by undergraduates in the Nevada System of Higher Education. Eighty-three students are expected to participate in the symposium, making it the largest symposium to date. Students and the public are invited to learn about the research being conducted by undergraduates.

"I had no idea about the research that undergraduates are doing," Katie Speirs, an undergraduate student presenting at the symposium for her second year, said. "I thought that undergraduates weren't as involved with research, but they are. They are working on really interesting and novel projects."

Speirs is a senior Honors Program student majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology and minoring in psychology. She and four other undergraduates are researching breast cancer by assaying for nucleoside diphosphate kinase, an enzyme released from breast cancer cells that promote growth of tumors. The team is working under the guidance of graduate student Seny Wong and Iain Buxton, director of the pharmacology department. Speirs plans to attend medical school next fall.

The symposium is open to any student in Nevada System of Higher Education and is sponsored by University of Nevada, Reno's Office of Undergraduate and Interdisciplinary Research.

"President Marc Johnson, the Provost and the deans are really supportive of providing undergraduate research opportunities," Michael Collopy, assistant vice president for research in the Office of Undergraduate and Interdisciplinary Research, said. "We encourage faculty and students to come and talk with student researchers and learn about the wide-range of undergraduate research being conducted on campus."

Senior psychology student Gabriella Dimotsantos will participate in the symposium. Her research focuses on EEG, electroencephalography, which is a way to track electrical changes in the different lobes of the brain by using a cap with 256 electrodes to harmlessly detect the electrical changes. Her study specifically looks at how using different strategies while completing working memory tasks can impact a person's memory. Dimotsantos recently finished collecting data from her research.

"It is interesting because it didn't come out exactly the way I thought it would," Dimostantos said. "I think that undergraduate research has significantly improved my undergraduate experience. I have learned so much."

The Office of Undergraduate and Interdisciplinary Research surveyed students and found that undergraduate research opportunities are beneficial for students who want to continue on to graduate school. It also sparks the interest of student to continue with other research projects.

"My research has been really exciting and an opportunity that a lot of other undergraduates don't get to experience," Tim Sweet, a senior computer science engineering major and Presidential Scholar, said. "I am looking forward to the symposium and seeing what my peers have done and sharing my research with others."

Sweet has been working on the programming and implantation of can automated video surveillance system to be used in airports. He has been mentored by Mircea Nicolesca, associate professor of computer science and engineering. Nicolesca's research is part of a larger collaboration with universities in London and Rome. Sweet had the opportunity to travel to Rome with Nicolesca last September to present his research.

The symposium will feature keynote speaker Mridul Gautam, the Universityof Nevada, Reno's vice president of research and innovation, from 1-1:30 p.m. in the Joe Crowley Student Theatre. Oral presentations will follow from 1:30 to 3 p.m. and the poster session and reception is from 3- 4:30 p.m. in the Student Union Milt Glick Ballrooms. For more information, visit http://environment.unr.edu/undergraduateresearch/opportunities/nurs.html .