April 23, 2019 | 61° F

Students present findings at 11th annual Aresty Undergraduate Research Symposium

Photo by Nikhilesh De |

More than 500 undergraduate students from every school in the University presented their research at the 11th Annual Aresty Undergraduate Research Symposium Friday at the Livingston Student Center.

More than 500 undergraduate students representing every school in the University presented their research at the 11th Annual Aresty Undergraduate Research Symposium.

Students had the opportunity to explain their work to their peers as well as to judges, who would evaluate both the poster and the oral presentation last Friday in the Livingston Student Center, said Brian Ballentine, director of the Aresty Program.

“The judges really look at the clarity of the poster and ... the presentation,” he said. “Can the students answer questions to non-experts? Are they empathetic to the audience?”

Two workshops designed to help students create their posters and presentations were held in advance of the event, he said. Attendees were taught how to create abstracts and explain technical details accessibly.

Just under 150 judges attended the symposium, he said. While most were graduate students, there were also a significant number of faculty and staff members as well as some of the program’s corporate sponsors.

The scores were submitted to Ballentine at the end of the event, and the best poster from each category — STEM, social sciences, humanities and best digital poster — would earn prizes, he said.

Digital posters are better able to represent material because they can utilize animations or other such tools, he said.

“One thing I’d really like to see is more digital creativity,” he said. “ (Normal) posters are static (and) we’d like to see Rutgers students be innovators in displaying (their work).”

This year’s symposium featured between 20 and 30 more presentations than the previous year, he said. The second floor of the student center was used to accommodate all of the posters, unlike last year, which only required the main floor.

A conference normally held on the second floor in conjunction with the symposium was rescheduled for next week to provide this space, he said.

Having faculty members participate in the Aresty Program was critical to the symposium’s success, he said. Professors list research projects they are conducting and the program connects them with qualified students who become Research Assistants.

Colleen Engler, a School of Engineering junior, said she originally began working with her principle investigator in 2013 as a resident assistant, but stayed on at the end of the year without reapplying to the Aresty program.

Engler presented the results of her work in creating microscale catheters whose eventual purpose will be to help treat spinal cord injuries.

Many of the projects being presented were from the School of Engineering, said Peng Song, an associate dean of Academic Affairs.

“From a School of Engineering view, I’d like to encourage faculty to list more projects and to help Aresty get more opportunities,” he said. “(Eventually we will) have new cross disciplinary projects, including School of Engineering disciplines.”

Many professors from the school recruit independently, but this does not necessarily reach as many students, he said. On Friday, the Department of Biomedical Engineering had a significantly greater number of projects than other departments from the school.

This does not reflect the diversity of projects across the campus, including the many interdisciplinary collaborations on campus, he said.

“We need to promote the platform, promote the forum to our faculty,” he said. “I’d like to see more engineering disciplines because they all do wonderful research (and) you have to support the students.”

Song said he was sure that more than just engineering students would be interested in participating in the program. As more and more professors list projects with the program, more students would be able to begin working on independent research at an earlier age.

Many professors focus on helping their graduate or doctoral students, he said, but having undergraduate students helps them both as well.

Increasing participation in the symposium would only help the University, Engler said. Students are able to learn from the posters regardless of what field they are studying.

“There’s hundreds of people here now,” she said. “I’m sure there's lots of people here not involved in research, so why not present to them (and make it) more widespread? It’s a good learning experience.”

The presenters would also be able to learn from their experience, Ballentine said. Several judges provided immediate feedback to the students, including how to improve their explanations.

Communication skills are as important as technical ones for both academics and other members of a company, he said.

“(Students) are not just here to present, they’re here to look at what other students ... are doing,” Song said. “I think it’s a great forum to share your research (and) to see a different view.”

Nikhilesh De

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