Allison Snow had an exciting week: At Thursday's Denman Undergraduate Research Forum, hundreds of Ohio State students showcased their imagination and creativity. The one-day event was the culmination of years of planning--and it's grown every year.
"It is really a cross section of the university, a huge celebration of research and creative activities,” says Snow, director of Ohio State's Undergraduate Research Office.
Now in its 18th year, the Denman is one of the largest events of its kind in the country. More than 700 young scholars shared their research projects, representing nearly every college and department on campus. (Find out more about Richard and Martha Denman, Ohio State supporters who've made the forum possible.)
For students, the Denman is more than an opportunity to share their research. It's a chance to think critically about issues affecting our state and our nation--from sustainability to global health to food production. Along the way, the researchers have studied alongside Ohio State faculty members, who are world-renowned experts in medicine, engineering, and the arts.
See the list of forum winners and faculty mentors who were recognized at the event.
And take a closer look at a handful of the students who presented at the Denman:
Researcher: Chibuokem Amuneke-Nze
Majors: Chemistry and Molecular Genetics
For Amuneke-Nze, creating alternative energy technologies is all about chemistry. He's spent the last two years studying the microscopic properties of carbon dioxide conversion and the chemicals it produces.
Last year, Amuneke-Nze looked at the surface properties of copper and carbon dioxide as it changes into new chemical compounds. His new research takes a deeper look at those compounds and how they can be used to improve efficiency and efficacy.
"With chemistry, you can be a part of the solution," he says. "You can apply it to the real world. You can create new alternatives to fossil fuels. And you can help improve industry, communities, and society."
Researcher: Sarah Craycraft
Majors: English and Psychology
Craycraft drew inspiration from her family's roots in Appalachia. She saw limited access to health care, but found little research on rural health care workers.
"It is hard to get good health care in rural areas, especially mental health care. I didn’t want to do a research project; I wanted something that was practical to today," she says.
Craycraft interviewed health care professionals in rural Ohio and West Virginia. That gave her perspective on how these workers serve Appalachian patients and find inspiration in the local community. After graduation, she plans to teach English with Teach for America.
Researcher: Andrew Muehleisen
Major: Evolution and Human Ecology
Muehleisen's Denman project started with a trip to Ecuador last summer. With the help of his advisor, he planned a trip to Yasuni National Park, where he studied 1,100 tree species in the rainforest. Andrew looked specifically at the growth and survival of trees with extra-floral nectaries, which produce nectar.
"There really wasn’t a lot of research on nectaries; it is believed only about half of them have been identified in the world," he says. "This was an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me to contribute to our understanding."
Research like Muehleisen's has become increasingly important as scientists look to understand the immense plant diversity of the tropics. Muehleisen plans to spend the summer studying forest dynamics in Yosemite before working in a research lab for another year.
Researcher: Christine Wu
Majors: Neuroscience and Music Performance
Ever wonder how to get that "it" song out of your head? That's the question that Wu is looking to answer.
"I kept wondering why songs like Call Me Maybe were so catchy. It started as a joke, a casual question with my friends. But I found that there isn't a lot out there explaining music memory."
Wu's project has given her a chance to work closely with a faculty mentor, Psychology Prof. Per Sederberg, whose Computational Memory Lab focuses on understanding how memories are formed and retrieved. The research has been a way for Wu to combine her two passions, psychology and music. She plans to work in a lab for a year before grad school.