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URECA/VIP Symposium Celebrates Student Excellence and Innovation

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The annual URECA/VIP Symposium included 250 posters from 400 students who presented their research findings and creative projects. Photo by John Griffin.

The annual Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (URECA)/Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) Symposium at Stony Brook University is a highly anticipated event that showcases the talent and innovation of undergraduate students throughout a wide range of disciplines.

The April 30 URECA symposium, held in Student Activities Center Ballroom A, included 250 posters from 400 students who presented their research findings and creative projects.

“So many people have come up to me to tell me that the URECA Celebration is their favorite day of the year,” said Karen Kernan, director of Programs for Research and Creative Activity. “The positive energy from students presenting their work, the range of projects from Anesthesiology to Women’s Studies, the creative VIP displays and senior design projects, and the engagement of our faculty mentors, all contribute to URECA’s signature event.”

Students benefit from getting hands-on experience working on a project through to completion, and the symposium provides students with the opportunity to explain their research to the Stony Brook community. Faculty, staff and students browsed the posters and listened to students describe their research and findings.

Juhi Sarin, a fourth-year biology major with a minor in Asian and Asian American Studies, explored cross-cultural moral lessons and retention in children’s literature and how South Asian Americans retain their culture. She first explored and compared five English language texts and five Hindi children’s books, and then surveyed 14 South Asian Americans on campus about the books to determine “where reading stood as a method of connecting with one’s culture as compared to other categories like TV and movies.”

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VIP teams were awarded prizes for the People’s Choice Awards, based on voting that took place throughout the event. Photo by John Griffin.

“What I found interesting in the comparison of the books was the variation in character sequences,” said Sarin. “If you take something like Disney Cinderella, Cinderella is a character who is only good; she doesn’t have character flaws. But looking at the Hindi texts, even when describing a divine figure, the text deals with him overcoming his arrogance. What I drew from that was that the Hindi language text encourages self-reflection among young children, so they have more nuance and more complexity.”

Hanon Koizumi is an exchange student from the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, and in her project explored the linguistic and cultural challenges faced by bilingual and multilingual speakers. Koizumi said her interest in the topic stemmed from her own discovery that her personality and communication style is more aggressive when speaking English and German, and less so when speaking Chinese, Japanese and Korean.

She conducted in-depth interviews with students studying in a non-native country to explore their cross-cultural experiences, and found that the differences in language characteristics have a clear impact on personalities and communication styles, and the importance of having a flexible attitude as a listener.

Koizumi credits the experience of participating in URECA for helping her advance her English-speaking skills. “Before URECA, I couldn’t explain well in English, like I can in Japanese. But this time, I had the opportunity to do research in English and then give presentations in English to people, and now I find that I can explain my research clearly and easily,” she said.

Meanwhile, in Ballroom B, students from 30 Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) teams showcased their research and discoveries. 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.

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The 3D Path: 3D Printing for Assistive Technology and Health team designed 3D-printed prosthetics and assistive devices. Photo by Beth Squire.

The “3D Path: 3D Printing for Assistive Technology and Health” team showed 3D-printed devices that they designed.

“Since I don’t have any physical disabilities, the limitations for those who do is not something I really thought about, but there are so many things difficult for those with disabilities, from opening a door to giving their dog a treat,” said team member Ciara Woellhof, a third-year student majoring in Applied Math and Statistics and Biomedical Engineering. “When we focus on one issue, we are able to help people with limitations to lead a more independent life, which is our goal.”

The team designed 3D-printed prosthetics and assistive devices, which are distributed to community members with disabilities. A recent innovation was a dog treat dispenser designed for wheelchair-bound dog owners. The team develops the original source code for the devices and then shares the code, free of charge, with others so that they may create a 3D-printed device.

“I’m very proud of the robust and exciting interdisciplinary teamwork coming from our VIP students and their faculty mentors. Their energy and passion for their work is infectious. I’m optimistic about the future, knowing that these are our next generation of leaders,” said Robert Kukta, faculty director of the VIP program and senior associate dean for education and innovation in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

At the conclusion of the event, VIP teams were awarded prizes for People’s Choice Awards, based on voting that took place throughout the event.

Winners of the VIP People’s Choice Awards:

Best Title: SBU Ryde
Team: TBD – Tech Businesses in Development

Most Engaging Presentation: Lipsync
Team: Bioengineering, Education, Application and Research (BEAR)

Best Demonstration: Solar Boat
Team: Stony Brook Solar Racing

Best Multidisciplinary Team: Tissue Engineered Kidneys
Team: Tissue Engineered Kidneys

Best VIP Team: Beautifying Academics Spaces with STEM-Inspired Art
Team:  Bioengineering, Education, Application and Research (BEAR)

— Beth Squire

 

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