By Paloma Sánchez-Jáuregui
Any undergraduate who has done research in a life science area will have the chance to publish their research findings, practice their oral communication skills in front of a supportive audience and build their curriculum vitae by participating in the Undergraduate Research Symposium which will be held in the Biology Building on Saturday, May 4th from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Professor David Logue, founder and coordinator of the symposium, conducted an info session Thursday Feb. 21st to explain what it is about and how students can benefit from participating.
Any student who has conducted a research relating to biology while being enrolled in a University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez (UPRM) undergraduate program is eligible to present in the symposium, even if the research has been conducted outside campus. To participate, each student will need the permission of their research mentor, and submit the entry form available in the biology department before April 4th. An abstract has to be included for consideration.
Students elected will have the chance to take part in events that will help them prepare for their research presentation. Last year, the Biology Department coordinated two lectures on how to prepare your power point slides and give an effective oral presentation.
Prof. Logue wrote on the “2nd Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium Report” that out of 62 presenters, “96% of student presenters agreed that participating strengthened their presentation skills, 80% learned new analytical techniques to prepare for their talk, and 98% read scientific literature as part of their preparation.”
Students shared their point of view in the video “Successful Biology Symposium at RUM,” by PrensaRUM. Kenny Vázquez, industrial microbiology student and one of last years’ participants said: “Being able to stand up in front of an audience to present what you have been working on it’s a fundamental part of the scientific process.” Similarly, Alexander Benítez, pre-med student said: “Participating has boosted my confidence level and helped me develop technical vocabulary.”
Participants will benefit from constructive feedback that the UPRM professors and graduate students will provide. Based on these assessments, a student from each topic session will be awarded for outstanding performance at the end of the day.
Additionally, the symposium will offer the “Distinguished Speakers Series” where recognized scientists from around the world will present their research and talk about career opportunities from their respective universities. The first will be held during university hour at the Biology Building’s auditorium on Tuesday, April 4th.
This year, Dr. Kyle Harms, who works in forest and diversity dynamics with Louisiana State University, will begin the series. Dr. Andrea Romero, psychologist from University of Arizona and Dr. Jeff Podos who studies the bioacoustics and evolution of vertebrate behavior in University of Massachusetts, Amherst will continue the series in the following weeks.
The series will end on the day of the symposium with Dr. Julia Olden, from the School of Aquatic & Fishery Sciences in Washington University and with Dr. Mostafa el Shahed, from the Microbial Ecology and Environmental Genomics Laboratory of Oklahoma State University.
The rest of the symposium will consist of nine 15-minute sessions of undergraduate research presentations. Three students from a different topic session (i.e. evolution, genetics, biotechnology, ecology) will give their presentation simultaneously, one in each classroom of the Biology Building.
Coffee, snacks and lunch will be offered free of charge between sessions. Last year, lunch was catered by Café Rullán. “It consisted of freshly prepared Puerto Rican cuisine, including roast chicken, rice and beans, and vanilla custard,” wrote Prof. Logue in the report.
“I love attending the symposium because here we celebrate all the work that has been done during the semester,” said Prof. Dimaris Acosta, mentor and judge of the ecology sessions at the 2nd Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium.