URSA Scholars Week celebrates innovation

URSA Scholars week allows students to share their undergraduate research projects and gain recognition. Brittany Tankersley | Photo Editor

By Megan Hale | Reporter

Baylor’s URSA Scholars Week commenced Monday morning. As a celebration of innovation and discovery, URSA Scholars Week provides undergraduate students with an opportunity to share their research with the Baylor community and gain recognition for their academic achievement.

After two years of being held remotely due to COVID-19, the event returned to being in person for students and faculty to enjoy and learn.

Students displayed their research findings through poster presentations that lined the halls of the Baylor Sciences Building and a series of scheduled platform presentations that took place in the Bill Daniel Student Center. Through these presentations, attendees saw firsthand the value and impact of student research.

The findings presented were not strictly confined to the categories of science; they spanned a variety of academic disciplines, including business, mathematics, psychology and the environment.

“Essentially anyone who has done undergraduate research and is in a lab currently, they can apply and send in an abstract if they’ve done the research with a professor,” Walnut, Calif., biology graduate student and URSA presentation judge Charli Worth said.

Each platform presentation was judged on various elements, including presentation delivery, organization, understanding of the material, storytelling and the student’s ability to adapt the level of technical information to the audience.

San Angelo junior Joshua Lui and Yunnan, China, junior Lianzijun Wang shared their individual findings through a platform presentation on behalf of Dr. ​​Myeongwoo Lee’s developmental cell biology lab. Both students studied C.elegans as a primary factor of their research, although their topics differed, as Lui studied salt sensitivity and Wang examined muscle dystrophy.

“Lianzijun is in my same lab, and yet, she’s studying something that’s related but also very different at times,” Lui said. “It really shows that there’s always something new to learn when it comes to biology like C.elegans. She performs different experimental techniques and gets different types of data, and I can learn so much from her work.”

Student-composed poster presentations also covered a wide range of topics, from analyzing vaccine hesitancy in college students — particularly relating to the HPV vaccine — to food waste determinants and how to best educate the public on composting.

McGregor sophomore Hope Tucker presented her research poster on what she believes is a primary problem resulting from pesticides Rotenone and Paraquat through the study and testing of zebrafish.

“Rotenone and Paraquat have been found in recent publications to produce symptoms similar to that of Parkinson’s disease, and they are commonly used pesticides now, so it’s becoming a very prevalent concern of whether or not they could be contributing to Parkinson’s disease development in humans,” Tucker said.

In order to bring this correlation to light, Tucker ran controlled tests on the fish to determine which pesticides resulted in the most severe neurological consequences.

Worth said it is important to inform students of the wide variety of things they can do with research in order to nurture and support the next generation of scientists.

“Undergraduate research is very different from just doing class labs,” Worth said. “Class labs are designed where, for the most part, you’re going to succeed 90% of the time, unless you mess up somewhere. If you are doing real research or undergraduate research like these students did, you are not going to have everything go right for you. It’s essentially 80% to 90% failure, 10% to 20% success, so it gives you a more realistic idea of what actually happens in the world.”

URSA Scholars Week will continue through Thursday evening with a keynote address by Dr. Annie Ginty analyzing her research on stress reactivity and health. This session will take place from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. in BSB B110.