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Rochester Institute of Technology student Elizabeth Pattie understands how research impacts lives. Her mother lives with multiple sclerosis—one of the reasons Pattie is compelled to continue making inroads in the fields of immunology and disease treatment using pharmaceuticals. Her project, “Targeted Molecular Imaging Agents to Visualize Breast Cancer,” was among more than 250 student projects, representing all nine colleges, on display at the 26th annual Undergraduate Research Symposium on Aug. 4 at RIT. Research proposals were featured in a series of oral and poster presentations throughout the day.
The event, which took place in Louise M. Slaughter Hall and Sustainability Institute Hall, is structured as a professional research conference. Some of the research themes included biomedical and life sciences; optics, photonics and imaging; energy and sustainability; business; chemistry and materials sciences and engineering; computer modeling, design and simulation; ecology; and social sciences and humanities.
“Many research universities around the country don’t offer this type of experience for undergraduates,” said John-David Rocha, an assistant professor in RIT’s College of Science and a faculty mentor to students. “At RIT, when we make this type of experience a central focus for them, they can really see the impact that it has, not just for their own research but in the broader scientific community. It’s a big deal for them to feel that. This is how I started as a freshman undergraduate student 20-plus years ago. Someone gave me the opportunity to work in a lab and figure out what it means to be a scientist. For me, as an educator and a scientist, it’s all about training. For them to learn and understand how to be the scientist who can change that world, that’s my goal.”
This year’s presentations featured a gamut of far-reaching innovations—from researching accessibility and inclusion strategies in postsecondary classrooms, to computational power of quantum Turing machines, to applying green infrastructure to vacant parcels for storm-water abatement.
“This experience has been amazing,” said Pattie, a senior biotechnology student from Kansas City, Mo., who is interested in cancer biology, immunology and molecular genetics. “Last fall, I was able to attend the American Society of Cell Biology conference in San Francisco, which was a great learning experience that allowed me to realize what I don’t know and what is out there. It helped me figure out what specialties I get excited about, what kind of graduate schools I want to look for. The whole research component allows you to think like a scientist. A invaluable exercise as an undergrad is to problem solve, figure things out, and that’s where a lot of really interesting discoveries come from.”
Other student projects included:
The keynote speaker for the symposium was Christopher Schauerman, research scientist and co-director of the RIT/NY-BEST Battery Prototyping Center, which works closely with local and national battery startup companies and universities to commercialize new battery technologies.
The symposium is sponsored by RIT’s Office of the Vice President for Research.