More than 400 Stony Brook undergraduate researchers showcased their original research and creative works at the annual Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (URECA) Symposium. Students from across academic disciplines presented their research during the all-day poster presentation sessions.
New this year was the addition of a showcase of Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP). The VIP program unites undergraduate students, graduate students and faculty members in multidisciplinary teams that work on long-term projects in research, design, innovation and entrepreneurship.
A university-wide research symposium, the URECA event, held May 2 in the Student Activities Center, allowed students to present their work to faculty, students, and visitors. The 2023 symposium featured more than 200 posters representing the work of over 400 students.
“This is my 22nd year of organizing the URECA symposium and I am so happy to see that this tradition is thriving! The range of projects is amazing,” said Karen Kernan, director of Programs for Research and Creative Activity. “I love seeing the energy of students presenting their work, many for the first time; and the pride and support of our dedicated faculty mentors.”
Students benefit from working closely with faculty and from getting hands-on experience working on a project through to completion. Faculty also enjoy the collaborative nature of the research and VIP projects.
Sara Bucior, a senior biology major, worked with a team on a URECA project to research predictors of bird collisions on the Stony Brook campus. The group found that robins were the most common bird to collide with windows on campus, a finding that is not in line with other research.
“I’m currently planning on applying to marine sciences graduate programs. This research project and process has inspired me to work in academia, and changed my interest based on my work with faculty in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences,” Bucior said.
David Tovmasyan, a senior double major in applied mathematics and statistics and economics, worked with faculty members Gary Halada from Materials Science and Engineering and Mark Montgomery from Economics to study how climate change contributes to the failure of oil and gas pipelines.
Through his work with the VIP team for Engineering Adaptation for Climate Change, Tovmasyan said, “This experience with VIP helped me with my own personal and professional goals. As an economics and AMS major, it is hard to get practical experience. The VIP team provides that experience that will differentiate you from the rest when applying for jobs.”
VIP team members and computer science majors Scott Zheng, Jesse Wang, and Fanny Li worked on the VIP Tech Businesses in Development group to develop an app that allows Stony Brook students to post if they are going to a local store so that others may rideshare.
“The benefit of working with VIP is meeting people who share the same goal and mindset as you and who want to create something new, that’s fresh, innovative, and gives back to the community,” Wang said. “It offered a first-person glance at what really goes into setup because you can talk about it and really put it to action. There’s a lot of different things that you just didn’t consider before like figuring out how to divide work among others on the team and how to split the work. There’s just things you really don’t think about until you actually put it to action.”
Pamela Ginex, faculty member in the School of Nursing, worked with a group of three PhD students from the School of Nursing and nine undergraduate students to evaluate resources for mental health in Suffolk County.
“The students learned so much from each other,” Ginex said. “The nursing PhD students learn from the undergrads and also share their own experiences. It really works collaboratively. The students made discord channels to communicate with each other and really did all this work. One student is studying abroad in England and is still able to participate. They really were dedicated to the project.”
Robert Kukta, faculty co-director of the VIP program and senior associate dean for education and innovation in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, highlighted the benefits of the interdisciplinary nature of VIP. “Everything in the workforce is interdisciplinary and I don’t think we stress that enough in the university environment, but students in the VIP program have an opportunity to engage their unique skills and passions in a practical, long-term project with diverse and complimentary team members. It is opening new doors for the students to reframe their educational experience and also for faculty to enhance their research and creative productivity. They’re engaged.”
— Beth Squire