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Sunday, September 24, 2023

Academics & Research

Students put explorations on exhibit

Undergrad Research print-2

Students had the opportunity to showcase their research endeavors at Undergraduate Research Day, co-sponsored by the Office of Undergraduate Research and The Honors College. | Fernando Castaldi/The Daily Cougar

More than 100 undergraduate research students presented their projects Thursday at UH’s ninth Undergraduate Research Day. Of the presenters, 63 had participated in last summer’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program.

“This event continues to grow in size and stature every year,” said Associate Dean of Undergraduate Research Stuart Long. “The growth of this event reflects the skills and talents of our student body and the demand for undergraduate research programs like SURF.”

Student presenters from 11 different colleges showcased their research, which ranged from Nietzsche’s concept of drives to trends in Houston’s air pollution to the urbanization of Southeast Asia.

“The work presented here today is original, creative, ambitious and a point of pride for the entire University of Houston community,” Long said.

One of the financial supporters of undergraduate research, Rathindra Bose, the vice chancellor for Research and Technology Transfer UH and UH System and the vice president for Research and Technology Transfer for UH, announced during his address to the students next year there will be an increase of funding to $75,000 from $60,000.

“I’m so impressed with all of these research exhibitions,” Bose said. “What an outstanding job.”

Bose shared his personal experience of working with students in his lab and said he is thankful to be able to help students find and develop their passions.

“I don’t think you get that experience from reading a textbook or attending lectures,” Bose said. “It comes from research.”

Long said the increased funding will be a great help in providing for the students.

“We are certainly always looking for ways to support more students,” Long said. “(Increased funding) gives us the opportunity for more students to be involved in our program.”

Of the 130 undergraduate students who participated in conducting their own research, 24 were chosen as poster award recipients.

Biomedical engineering junior Tessy Lal was one of the few who received a poster award. Lal worked with a team of researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine and researched parts of the human brain for depression.

“Basically, what we did was try to find specific areas of the brain that are responsible for the symptoms of depression — that way, we can develop treatment to target those specific areas,” Lal said. “We looked at eight specific areas of the brain and we compared the connectivity between those areas. We found that there were significant differences in the connectivity between patients with depression and patients without.”

Lal also studied the effects of ketamine as a possible treatment for depression and found that it does play a role in changing the connections to depression in the brain.

Lal said she is happy to have her work acknowledged.

“It’s nice to know that people are interested in this. I was glad that I was able to show them that anyone can do this,” Lal said. “I had no background in this, but I was very interested. That’s all you need — a bit of interest and determination, and it can go a long way.”

Lal plans to attend graduate school and said her research has influenced her aspirations for the future.

“Because of this research project, I learned that I am interested in neuroscience, and now I’m considering that as a field for further study,” Lal said.

Karen Weber, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research, said Undergraduate Research Day is an exciting occasion for students to see all that they’ve achieved in the past year and to share their endeavors with others.

“The Office of Undergraduate Research takes great pride and pleasure in celebrating our students’ talent, dedication, hard work and intelligence,” Weber said.

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