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students present research projects

OSU hosts record-setting Undergraduate Research Symposium

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Media Contact: Sydney Trainor | Communications and Media Relations Specialist | 405-744-9782 |

At Oklahoma State University, students explore diverse fields from music to accounting and biochemistry to architecture, driving impactful research that begins in the classroom.  

As a land-grant institution, OSU empowers undergraduates to embark on journeys of exploration, shaping the future of society. This week, that research was on display at the annual Undergraduate Research Symposium. 

A record number of 308 students presented 266 research projects on April 16 in the ConocoPhillips OSU Alumni Center. Several departments across campus also participated for the first time. 

The symposium is held each year in April to align with national celebration of the Undergraduate Research Week. The week was formally recognized on Nov. 16, 2010, by the U.S. House of Representatives to celebrate the work undergraduates do across the nation.   

Undergraduate students involved were also part of formal undergraduate research programs, such as: Freshman Research Scholars, McNair Scholars, Niblack Research Scholars, OK-LSAMP Scholars and Wentz Research Scholars. 

“I believe part of great research at a university is everybody has that ethos,” said Dr. Kenneth Sewell, OSU vice president for research. “It's not just the faculty and it’s not just the graduate students, but the ethos of research permeates undergraduate education and the identity of our undergraduates. It’s a big part of our identity at OSU and certainly a big part of our university strategy.” 

The URS is an opportunity for undergraduate students to present what they have learned through their research experiences to the OSU campus community. There are three presentation formats available for students to choose from: poster, oral flash talk, or a short video for performing and visual arts. 

“As you can see by the wide variety of disciplines, OSU takes the lead in supporting our big research in all fields of study,” Sewell said. “We know that students who get involved in undergraduate research nearly always find that experience to be critical in choosing a career path and proven success in the workforce.” 

Rachel Miller, a psychology major, is conducting a study on how concussions affect students’ college experiences. 

Miller said this study is important because most of the existing literature focuses on college athletes, whereas when one compares the rate of concussions, they are higher in the general population.  

“It's an important question to answer, and I think the results will help inform what study needs to happen next, maybe resilience-based interventions, which can help students who've experienced concussions succeed and graduate,” Miller said. 

OSU undergraduate research is preparing Miller for graduate school as she intends to pursue a Ph.D. program, and the symposium played a crucial role in that endeavor.  

Amber Smith, a biochemistry and molecular biology freshman, is researching infectious diseases in the feedlot segment of the cattle industry, specifically bovine respiratory disease, which is responsible for 50-70% of the deaths in feedlots, costing millions of dollars in losses annually. 

Participating in undergraduate research has helped the Freshman Research Scholar make decisions about her future career, and symposiums like URS allow her to gain experience communicating complex topics to the public.  

“As a researcher, I think it's important to spread awareness to topics people don't necessarily know because the thing with research is everybody's projects are so niche. Unless you come in with prior knowledge, you're not going to have very much interest unless it's explained to you,” Smith said. “I'm going to simplify it so you understand why it's important and not necessarily every scientific detail.” 

Smith’s faculty mentor is Dr. Yong Cheng, biochemistry and molecular biology assistant professor in the Ferguson College of Agriculture, who was awarded one of seven inaugural OSU Excellence in Research Mentoring awards. 

Cheng mentored nine students for the symposium and looks forward to advising students throughout their academic careers. 

“They are great students, and they are really eager to do research in a lab,” Cheng said.  

Cheng sees the importance of research from undergraduates all the way to faculty members. His team of researchers has set out to study host-pathogen interactions as they look for ways to treat diseases. 

“It’s our mission to do research, for the future of the country and the next generation of scientists and researchers,” Cheng said. 

Also, other award recipients who were nominated by undergraduate students and selected by committee were:  

  • Dr. Josh Butcher — Physiological Sciences — College of Veterinary Medicine  
  • Dr. Matthew Cabeen — Microbiology and Molecular Genetics — College of Arts and Sciences 
  • Dr. Jill Joyce — Nutritional Sciences — College of Education and Human Sciences 
  • Dr. Shelia Kennison — Psychology — College of Arts and Sciences 
  • Dr. Michael Reichert — Integrative Biology — College of Arts and Sciences 
  • Dr. Kurt Rouser — Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering — College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology 

“Another thing that really sets OSU apart is how our faculty embrace it,” Sewell said. “Our faculty at OSU don't just help undergrads doing research so that they can be nice and helpful; it's a part of their own sense of identity to graduates and undergraduate students in research enterprises.”  

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