Work of 50 UNLV Students Featured at 18th Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium

CenterPoint | March 2018 | Dr. Matthew Della Sala, Assistant Director for Undergraduate Research


The UNLV Center for Academic Enrichment and Outreach (The Center) held its 18th Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium on October 17, 2017. The event was first held in 1999 to showcase the scholarly work of 11 students in UNLV’s federally-funded TRIO Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program (MCN). However, due to success in four subsequent MCN grant competitions (2003, 2007, 2012, and 2017) and two Title III Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions (AANAPISI) grant competitions (Part A in 2015 and Part F in 2016), The Center has been able to continue holding the event and expanding the number of featured undergraduate researchers to 34 in 2016 and 50 in 2017.

McNair is named after the late Dr. Ronald Erwin McNair, a NASA astronaut who died as a result of the space shuttle Challenger explosion in 1986. Dr. McNair was an African-American trailblazer in that he was a nationally recognized physicist at a time when our Nation's corps of STEM researchers exhibited very little ethnic diversity. MCN-eligible students include undergraduates who are:

  • Low-income individuals and first-generation-college students; and/or
  • Members of groups underrepresented in graduate education--i.e., Black (non-Hispanic), Hispanic, American Indian, Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiians, and Native American Pacific Islanders. At UNLV, all AANAPISI participants are undergraduates who are low-income individuals and/or first-generation college students.

At UNLV, all AANAPISI participants are undergraduates who are low-income individuals and/or first-generation college students.

Held in the UNLV Student Union ballroom, the symposium began with some brief opening remarks by Keith Rogers (deputy executive director), Terri Bernstein (interim director for college programs), and Dr. Matthew Della Sala (assistant director for undergraduate research) and then moved quickly to the delivery of three-minute “lightning talks” by four of the undergraduate researchers: Michelle Quizon (mechanical engineering) from MCN, Joseph Jean (public health) from MCN, Tyus Rafael (economics) from AANAPISI, and Tanya Ricasa (biology and pre-professional studies) from AANAPISI. Finally, all 50 undergraduate researchers presented posters that described the methodologies and summarized the findings of investigations they completed during the previous summer under the supervision of faculty mentors from UNLV and other institutions. Standing by their posters for nearly two hours as event attendees moved throughout the ballroom, the researchers explained their projects repeatedly and responded to questions from both novices and experts.

The undergraduate researchers’ faculty mentors included Dr. Erick Bandala, Desert Research Institute Division of Hydrologic Science, Dr. Ovijit Chaudhuri, Stanford University Department of Mechanical Engineering, and the following faculty from UNLV:

  • Dr. Alyssa Crittendon, Department of Anthropology;
  • Dr. Ernesto Abel-Santos and Dr. Pradip Bhowmik, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry;
  • Dr. Daniel Gerrity and Dr. Moses Karakouzian Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Construction;
  • Dr. Brad Wimmer, Department of Economics;
  • Dr. Carolee Dodge-Francis, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health;
  • Ms. Sharon Jalene, Dr. Jessica Knurick, Dr. John Mercer, and Dr. Brach Poston, Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition Sciences;
  • Dr. Betty Burston, Department of Health Care Administration;
  • Dr. Yu Kuang, Department of Health Physics;
  • Dr. Erika Abad, Department of Interdisciplinary, Gender, and Ethnic Studies;
  • Dr. Shubhra Bansal, Department of Mechanical Engineering;
  • Dr. Barbara St. Pierre Schneider, Department of Nursing;
  • Dr. Daniel Proga, Department of Physics and Astronomy;
  • Dr. Tiffiany Howard, Department of Political Science;
  • Dr. Kristen Culbert, Dr. Dustin Hines, Dr. Rochelle Hines, Dr. Christopher Kearney, and Dr. Janice McMurray, Department of Psychology;
  • Dr. Anna Smedley-Lopez, Department of Sociology; and
  • Dr. Scott Abella, Dr. Allen Gibbs, Dr. Jef Jaeger, Dr. Sean Neiswenter, Dr. Jeffrey Shen, Dr. Paul Schulte, Dr. Christy Strong, Dr. Ai-Sun Tseng, and Dr. Helen Wing, School of Life Sciences.

Disciplines represented by the undergraduate researchers included anthropology, biology, chemistry, civil engineering, comprehensive medical imaging and radiography, economics, gender and sexuality studies, healthcare administration, kinesiology, mechanical engineering, nursing, nutrition sciences, political science, physics, psychology, public health, and sociology. For the 2018 Undergraduate Research Symposium, the number of disciplines represented, researchers presenting, and faculty members mentoring is expected to increase again as the brand new (i.e., with a start date of 9/1/17, resulting from a grant proposal CAEO submitted in November 2016) National Science Foundation (NSF) Southern Nevada Northern Arizona Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (SNNA-LSAMP) comes online and creates additional opportunities for UNLV undergraduates who wish to participate in research.

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