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Thursday, January 20, 2022

Academics & Research

Applications open for Undergraduate Research Day


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This year marks the 12th annual event in which students show attendees their findings alongside a faculty mentor. | File photo/The Cougar

Chemical engineering junior Brittany Trinh’s research is helping to make water safer.

Her study is just one of 150 that attendees can see on Undergraduate Research Day, Oct. 14, held in the M.D. Anderson Library’s Rockwell Pavilion. Applications to present the research are open through Sept. 19.

“Sometimes the research can seem routine, or if something doesn’t work out, it gets really frustrating,” Trinh said. “But in the end, if you think about your final product, it’s really cool.”

Trinh tested the effectiveness of a new water filter invented by her adviser, Debora Rodrigues, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering.

Trinh began her research this summer while participating in the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship. One of the program’s requirements is that participants present their research at the Undergraduate Research Day.

Karen Weber, the director of the office of undergraduate research at UH, said conducting research with an adviser, another requirement of SURF, can be one of the best ways to get to know a professor.

“Getting started with undergraduate research can open a lot of doors for students,” Weber said.

Weber said research is also a great way for students to meet others in their field, begin networking and find opportunities for their own research in the future.

Undergraduate research isn’t only about the networking, however. Rodrigues said it is also important in preparing students for professional careers and making them more well-rounded.

Trinh is now considering a career conducting research, something she says wouldn’t have happened without Rodrigues and SURF. Her plan beforehand was to pass her classes, finish her bachelor’s in chemical engineering and immediately enter the workforce.

She now plans to earn her master’s. Even a doctorate degree.

“It’s like whole-person development,” Trinh said. “(People should) start exploring those different opportunities.”

Rodrigues warned that research wasn’t for everyone. She has had students who thought they loved it at first and decided they actually didn’t like it after SURF.

“If they do research and they like it and want to pursue it, they should,” Rodrigues said. “I’m supportive of all my students. Whatever they decide to do, it makes me proud.”

The event features hundreds of students who’ve already conducted research. But the students who attend the event, to hear the researches and take advantage of free ice cream, often benefit the most.

“First, they can learn about what’s going on outside the classroom,” Rodrigues said. “Some of the research that’s going on is actually very applied. The research is related to their daily lives, to things they will need. I always ask my grad students to go, like a family.”

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