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Showcasing Undergraduate Research

Expo highlights work being done in lab, on stage, in film and around the world

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June 11, 2014 | by Brendan Cosgrove
More than 150 students participated in Northwestern's annual Undergraduate Research and Arts Exposition. Photo by Emily Hittner.

EVANSTON, Ill. --- More than 20 students took home awards for their creativity, ingenuity and discovery during Northwestern University’s 12th annual Undergraduate Research and Arts Exposition.

The topics of the winners’ presentations ranged from anti-cancer drugs and diet-related, chronic illnesses of Mexican-Americans to the sexual behaviors of asexual males and the positive impact of hip-hop music on a Chicago neighborhood that was showcased in a film.

The topics of the expo projects, whether performed on stage, detailed in a senor thesis or produced in a lab, hint at the reach of undergraduate research at Northwestern across all its schools and disciplines and in countries around the world.

The expo work was presented in poster and oral presentations in the arts, humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and engineering, and in a creative arts festival.

Scholars well know the importance of academic posters, routinely presented at academic conferences to promote and explain research papers before they are published.

“We want students to get responses to their work and gain ideas and insights on how they could potentially develop it further, said Peter Civetta, director of Northwestern’s Office of Undergraduate Research. “The creation of new knowledge always requires input from the world as it develops.”

A complete list of winners is available here.

The expo provides students a chance to showcase their work, get valuable feedback from faculty and hone critical communication skills.

“Often in academia, we forget the importance of how we communicate and assume that good content will carry us,” Civetta said. “We live in a communication-centric world, and the skills needed to succeed in this world are different from the ones needed to succeed in their projects.”

The expo requires all participants giving research talks to attend presentation workshops designed to help them transition from written to oral communication of their work, gaining confidence during the process.

“Together, we hope these experiences help launch students successfully into their post-undergraduate lives, whether that be in graduate school, on fellowships or starting their career path,” Provost Daniel Linzer said. “Experiential learning is a key part of the Northwestern experience.”

A major Northwestern focus, undergraduate research experiences continue to expand, with students working in labs, making documentaries, exploring archives and visiting more than two dozen countries around the world this summer.

“We are immensely proud of the students who presented and performed at this year’s Undergraduate Research and Arts Exposition and Creative Arts Festival,” Linzer said. “Their talents make us optimistic for our future.”