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Symposium showcases student talents

As USF gears its focus toward research, undergraduate students were given the opportunity to present some of their discoveries Thursday at the third annual Undergraduate Research Symposium.

Oral and visual presentations in several different fields were introduced as students demonstrated their findings to an audience of USF and high school students, faculty and the Tampa community.

Several subject areas were represented in the presentations, some providing groundbreaking information, others extending upon established ideas. Among the topics were natural science, medical science, creative research in the arts, engineering, social sciences and humanities.

Naomi Yavneh, interim director of the office of undergraduate research, said that almost every college had a representative at the symposium. “We didn’t get any submissions from undergraduates in business … and no nursing students participated, although they had their own symposium,” she said.

“Students submitted an eight- to 10-page paper or an abstract” in order to be considered for the symposium, said Yavneh. “These were sent to faculty judges in the students’ respective disciplines for evaluation.” Over 30 judges were involved in the selection process, according to Yavneh.

Students presented an array of research. Junior James Kotick introduced the study of his research in the field of neuroscience, entitled “Genetic Strain Influences Hippocampal Dendritic Branching in Neuopilin 2 Heterozygous Knock Out Mice.” In his analysis, Kotick explained the underlying functions of the epileptic brain.

Amber Davis, a senior studying political science, reported on the influence the media and campaign ads had on the 2004 elections. Her presentation, entitled “Advertising War: How Candidates and Interest Groups Affected Voters in Election 2004,” is a collection of data reflecting the advertising trends affiliated with the election.

Erin Collins, who worked as the costume designer for the School of Theater and Dance’s play Ashes, presented historical fashion research based on her designs for Ashes this past fall. Collins said she was inspired to enter her research because Ashes was “such a beautiful show, and (she) was very proud of it.”

For the first time, selected high school students had the opportunity to contribute to the symposium, demonstrating their own research to the USF community. “I thought participating in such an event would be an exciting opportunity for a high school student and that, for a student, knowing that such symposia exist might inspire more high school (students) to think about research,” said Yavneh. “We only invited a few schools to participate. Some schools did not respond, while others were very enthusiastic. We also invited the winners of the high school Hillsborough County Science Fair to present their work and have it judged by our judges.”

Allison Bladon, a senior at Tampa Preparatory School, was thrilled to participate in the Undergraduate Symposium. “It was a bit nerve-wracking at first, but I learned a lot more about USF and all the research that goes on here,” she said.

Yavneh is very enthusiastic about the research ensuing at USF. “(USF has) some amazing things going on here — in cancer research, for example — that will blow your socks off.”