Undergraduates here at UVA have the following similar characteristics: they study, eat, and enjoy weekends hanging out with friends. But there are those select few who choose to spend extra time in between classes and weekends conducting their own research project with a professor in one of the many laboratories.
Although there are no concrete data on the total number of undergraduate researchers at UVA, they can be spotted in action in many of the laboratories around the university. Some of the students, usually in their third or fourth years, complete an independent project. They are often most eager to share the results of their hard work to the UVA community.
The Undergraduate Research Network of UVA hosted its Eleventh Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium this past Friday. At the event, students presented three science projects and four humanities projects to a panel of judges and general audience in the Byrd Room of the Harrison Institute on Grounds. This year, the Symposium was represented by a wide range of projects in each of the two categories.
For example, a psychology project examined how just mere physical presence impacted the stress levels of a performer singing karaoke. Fourth year student Kaitlin Heffron found that the happiness of the performer increased when she stood nearby as opposed to when the singer was alone. In the humanities, first year student Brad Brown examined how the list of headache triggers today is similar to the list compiled several hundred years ago by ancient physicians. He highlighted that even though technology has steadily improved, the actual list of theories on how headaches are triggered remained basically the same as before.
By the end of the day, two triumphant winners emerged. Stephen Holtz took the first place title for the Sciences section of the Symposium with his project “Ultrastructural Morphology and Synaptic Organization of Parabrachial input to the Rat Gustatory Thalamus”, or as he simply put, a new novel way of understanding the rat taste processing in the microscopic level. In the Humanities, the first place title was awarded to fourth year Lillian Frost with “How Does Al-Jazeera Arabic Influence Jordanian Political Attitudes and Identities?” She spent over three weeks in Jordan studying Al-Jazeera’s more independent broadcasting technique and whether it swayed the regular viewer’s opinion more than the other stations in the Middle East. Holtz and Frost were both awarded the UVA Jefferson Cup as a prize for their outstanding undergraduate research projects.