Tomorrow's scientists to be showcased at Undergraduate Research Conference

The eighth annual Undergraduate Research Conference, taking place on Thursday, Oct. 4, will showcase some of the very best undergrad projects from the Faculty of Science.
A student presenter describes her project to a judge at last year's Undergraduate Research Conference. / Photo: Owen Egan

By Neale McDevitt

Right from the outset, Victor Chisholm wants to make something very clear about the upcoming Undergraduate Research Conference (URC).

“There won’t be any baking soda volcanoes on display,” says the Undergraduate Research Officer in the Faculty of Science with a chuckle. “But you will see some great examples of the exciting work being done by our students.”

On Thursday, Oct. 4, some 49 students from across the Faculty of Science will present their research projects in the lobby of the Arts Building at the eighth annual URC.

Primarily a poster event, the URC invites students to display and discuss the fruits of their research labour. “This is an important step for them,” says Chisholm. “Science isn’t just about what you do in the lab, it’s also about sharing your results with other people. It’s the proverbial tree falling in the forest. If no one hears about what you’ve done, what’s the use?”

The projects are diverse in subject matter, as would be expected seeing as how they have been chosen from departments and schools across the Faculty ranging from Microbiology and Immunology to Physics, Kinesiology and the School of Environment.

While the titles of some of the topics seem quite accessible (Environmental Determinants of Infectious Disease Emergence) others seem decidedly more esoteric (Heterogeneity of outer membrane protease T activity in Uropathogenic Escherichia coli clinical isolates). Chisholm assures people that every project is top flight. “These are the best and brightest of our [Science] students,” he says, “and the high quality of their research reflects that.”

A panel of judges will adjudicate the projects, and certificates and prizes will be awarded to the best. Following the prize ceremony the keynote address will be delivered by alumna Suzanne Fortier (B.Sc. ‘72, Ph.D. ’76) who currently serves as President of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council.

A crystallographer by training, specializing in the development of mathematical and artificial intelligence methodologies for protein structure determination, Fortier will deliver the keynote address entitled Exploring the Borderless World of Science and Innovation. The lecture is open to the public.

While Chisholm wants the URC to attract visitors and the curious from all walks of life, he hopes that other undergraduate Science students will come out in force. “We have very high placement rates in Science and over half our students graduate with at least one research project on the record,” he says. “But we’re always looking to improve those numbers and this is one way students can talk to their peers about their research experience.

“Research experience is invaluable,” says Chisholm, “because you’re not just hearing about knowledge secondhand. You’re actually participating in the creation of it. By engaging in a topic deeply you get to see the limitations and the problems, as well as the insights and the possibilities of the work you’re doing.”

The Undergraduate Research Conference; Thursday, Oct. 4, starting at 10 a.m. Open to the public. For more information go here.