Tom Kaffenberger was like a lot of Ohio State students these days: He came to Ohio State fully expecting he'd participate in research projects as an undergrad.
"Autumn quarter freshman year, I was in a lab." He pauses and laughs: "In the first year or so, I was terrible, to put it frankly."
Kaffenberger persevered--and vastly improved. He's spent four years in the same lab, moving from a liver cancer project to a breast cancer project. Now a senior, he has been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study brain cancer in Germany.
"Research opens a ton of doors for you," he says. "I would have had nowhere near the opportunities or the experiences I've had without research."
Kaffenberger was one of more than 600 Ohio State undergrads who presented his research at the recent Denman Forum.
"The kinds of questions that our students are working on are really quite impressive," says Allison Snow, director of Ohio State's Undergraduate Research Office. They're looking for cures for cancer, more nutritional food, better ways to grow crops, sustainable agriculture, energy and the environment."
Snow says the university spends more than $1 million each year supporting undergraduate researchers; her office also connects students with external support.
The reward, for her, is seeing students' passion for their work.
"You can tell from their enthusiasm and their passion that they have really taken ownership of these projects," she says. "They're doing work that means something to them, that they're heavily invested in."
See the full list of Denman winners and Denman Research Mentor Awards.
See the complete list of Denman participants and abstracts.