Research at UWM celebrated at undergrad symposium

UWM celebrated its status as an “R1” university, a designation given to the country’s top research institutions, on Friday at an event highlighting one aspect of the university’s research prowess, the UWM Undergraduate Research Symposium.

Held each year, the symposium showcases the research collaborations of UWM undergraduate students with faculty and staff through presentations of their findings. UW System President Ray Cross and UWM Chancellor Mark Mone attended this year to help celebrate.

“Milwaukee and Wisconsin will progress and grow to a great extent and direction proportionate to your growth and progress,” Cross told the students. “You are inextricably linked to the success of this community and state.”

Though the symposium highlighted students’ efforts and findings from their research, both Cross and Mone emphasized that it wouldn’t be possible without the faculty and staff at UWM that stand as mentors for their students.

“At its core, ‘Research 1’ really stands for the quality of our faculty, and that translates directly to the high-caliber educational opportunities that change lives at UWM,” said Mone.

Research recognized

These efforts have not gone unnoticed. Since 2016, UWM has maintained its elite status as a top research university, outlined by the evaluation of institutions across the country for their research expenditures and awarding of doctoral degrees. UWM is one of only 131 universities, of 4,324 institutions evaluated, to receive this prestigious recognition by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. Carnegie reaffirmed UWM’s elite status in December 2018.

UWM’s undergraduate research also received national recognition. The university is one of two universities to receive the Council on Undergraduate Research’s Campus-Wide Award for Undergraduate Research Accomplishments in 2018.

In the theme of research, this year’s symposium concluded with a campuswide celebration of UWM’s continued status as one of America’s top research universities.

“The symposium celebrates the contributions of undergraduates to these important research agendas, and the collaborative spirit of research itself,” said Kyla Esguerra, associate director of the Office of Undergraduate Research.

The symposium also showcased the diversity of research at UWM. It’s not just lab coats and test tubes: Research spans the breadth of programs at UWM.

Ashley López, a senior majoring in psychology, gave a presentation on her research into the effectiveness of health promotion interventions for transgender people, with a focus on HIV and STD risk reduction, substance use and depression. Prior to starting her research, López, like many others, had misconceptions about the potential and variety of research.

“Before conducting research with my mentor, I was not considering research at all because of my previous views and opinions of what it was,” López said. “Working with him I realized I was wrong. Research is a lot of things. There’s so much variety.”

Interests fuel research

López’s presentation also represented how students across UWM are able to integrate their personal passions and interests into their research.

“I didn’t think that the things that I care about, such as gender identity, could be considered research,” said López. “I knew from my personal life that I enjoyed helping others work through these things. When I found out I could combine this with my academic work, it was perfect.”

Other presentations at the symposium included how music affects memory, time perception in virtual reality, storm chasing and how YouTube can help people with autism spectrum disorders communicate.

At the end of the day, awards were given to UWM students and faculty to recognize their research efforts. Winners are:

Outstanding Presentation ribbon recipients

  • Aimee Roekle, mentored by Jae Yung Song and Robin Fritche in Linguistics
  • Andrew Thompson, mentored by Marcia Silva and Thomas Hansen in Freshwater Sciences
  • Bailey Flannery, mentored by Jacqueline Stuhmiller in English
  • Erin VanDenBosch, mentored by Adam Greenberg in Psychology
  • Hilda Martinez Ramirez, mentored by Shama P. Mirza in Chemistry & Biochemistry
  • Jennifer Wendlick, mentored by Jennifer Gutzman in Biological Sciences
  • Kristen Leer, mentored by Tina Freiburger in Criminal Justice
  • Loretha Jack, mentored by Erica Young and John Berges in Biological Sciences
  • Max Driftmier, mentored by Ionel Popa in Physics
  • Maximillian Geis, mentored by Teresa Schueller in the Department of Mathematics
  • Nathan Kohls, mentored by Peter Hinow in Mathematical Sciences
  • Ryan O’Connor, mentored by Christopher Willey in Art & Design
  • Sarah Philippi, mentored by Karyn Frick in Psychology
  • Teonna Cooksey, mentored by Arijit Sen in Architecture
  • Tessa Miskimen, Allison Nickel and Lauren Hopkins, mentored by Deborah Hannula in Psychology

2019-20 Senior Excellence in Research Awardees:

  • Bob Aloisi, working with David Kaplan in Astrophysics
  • Bella Biwer, working with Arijit Sen in Architecture and Urban Planning
  • Bailey Flannery, working with Jacqueline Stuhmiller in the Honors College
  • Ryan Majinski, working with Mahmun Hossain in Biochemistry
  • Tessa Miskimen, working with Debbie Hannula in Psychology
  • Nikolaus Prusinski, working with Dawn Erb in Astrophysics
  • Nicole Vigon, working with Brooke Slavens in Occupational Sciences and Technology and Biomedical Engineering

Undergraduate Research Mentor of the Year: Jennifer Gutzman, Biological Sciences

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