Undergraduate Research Day, September 29, 2020
Welcome to the 15th Annual Undergraduate Research Day. This year has been a whirlwind, to say the very least. We planned to hold Undergraduate Research Day in the spring semester and were looking forward to seeing posters placed throughout the Honors College, the Elizabeth D. Rockwell Pavilion, and M.D. Anderson Library. As COVID-19 cases appeared in the United States, we postponed our spring research event until September 29th, with hopes that we might be able to have some type of on-campus event. However, cases continued to climb in the U.S., and we made the decision to take the event 100% online. In order to bring you the most engaging research event possible, we have partnered with ForagerOne to bring Undergraduate Research Day to you virtually, wherever you may be at this time. In selecting the format for today, our team took into consideration how you might interact with posters beyond simply viewing them online. We encourage you to comment or reach out to individual presenters with any questions about their work. Undergraduate Research Day is an event that showcases the diverse range of impressive research projects completed by University of Houston undergraduate students. Today's presenters include students from the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) Program, the Mellon Research Scholars Program, and many others who conducted research under the guidance of University of Houston faculty during the past year. We are incredibly proud of our undergraduate researchers' accomplishments, and they are eager to share their research projects with you. Over the past year and a half, the Office of Undergraduate Research and Major Awards has supported students from across the University of Houston through faculty-mentored research programs. The SURF program had over 100 participants in 2019 and over 140 in 2020. The Provost's Undergraduate Research Scholarship was awarded to over 85 students between Spring 2019 and Spring 2020. In 2019 and 2020, over 90 exceptional students learned how to conduct effective and ethical research through the Houston Early Research Experience (HERE). The Mellon Research Scholars Program welcomed two more dynamic cohorts of students seeking to contribute to their fields and promote diversity and inclusion in the humanities. Our undergraduate researchers come from a variety of majors and have innovative research ideas that can leave a positive, lasting impact. Our students have worked with faculty mentors from 11 colleges and more than 30 departments on campus; their efforts contribute to the broad range of research projects on display here today. Our faculty mentors are devoted to supporting students in the pursuit of advancing knowledge and excellence in their chosen fields. Students who participate in faculty-mentored research programs such as SURF and PURS have opportunities to develop and sharpen their problem solving, critical thinking, and communication skills. They also gain new perspectives by working with graduate students and faculty on research teams and learn how their work contributes to the greater good. These skills were made apparent to the Office of Undergraduate Research and Major Awards team when meeting with each undergraduate researcher over the past year. In our second and third years of the Mellon Research Scholars Program, the Office of Undergraduate Research and Major Awards worked with 42 vibrant scholars pursuing research in disciplines across the humanities. Funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and committed to building a diverse academy, the program includes faculty-led seminars, an intensive preparatory graduate school workshop, and a full-time summer research experience for students. While several 2019 Mellon Scholars traveled in the United States and abroad for fieldwork, to access sources for their research, and to improve their language and translation skills, the 2020 cohort of Mellon Scholars have adapted to the challenges of conducting their research remotely. From processing an archival collection, to presenting their research at national conferences, to applying for nationally-competitive fellowships, the Mellon Research Scholars are on the move. Please visit the Mellon Research Scholars website for more information. Undergraduate research continues to play a major role in preparing UH students to apply for national fellowships and major awards. Last year, UH set a number of institutional records. For the first time since 2014, two undergraduates received the prestigious Barry Goldwater Scholarship for excellence in STEM. In addition to three Boren Scholars, UH also recorded its first Critical Language recipients for Urdu and Persian, and its second ever Udall Scholar. Most notably, with the supportive leadership of Provost Paula Myrick Short, 12 students were named Fulbright recipients, thus establishing the University of Houston as a Top Producing Fulbright Institution for 2019-2020. The University of Houston joins an elite group of research institutions to receive this honor and is only one of two schools in Texas to claim such a distinction. The Office of Undergraduate Research and Major Awards welcomed two new staff members in 2019. Brittni MacLeod joined as the Associate Director and provides guidance and support to students who wish to pursue research opportunities at the University of Houston. She has previously served in advising roles and managed student leadership, campus involvement, and academic support programs. Please contact Mrs. MacLeod to learn more about getting started in research, the SURF, PURS, and ARC programs, and the Senior Honors Thesis program. Dr. Rikki Bettinger joined as the Program Manager and serves as the Associate Director of the Mellon Research Scholars Program. Dr. Bettinger works directly with the Mellon Scholars as they conduct individual research projects in the humanities and apply to competitive graduate programs and national fellowships. For more information about the Mellon Research Scholars Program and Houston Early Research Experience, please contact Dr. Bettinger. The Office of Undergraduate Research and Major Awards would like to thank the Office of the Provost, the Division of Research, the Honors College, the Cullen College of Engineering, the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, and the many other colleges and departments on campus for their support of undergraduate research programming at the University of Houston. The programs featured here today would not be possible without the support of our campus partners. (Please see page 4 for listing of supporters.) Thank you for joining this year's virtual celebration of the University of Houston's undergraduate research community. As you engage with the 281 presenters online, we hope you learn something new and make lasting connections rooted in scholarship. A strong, resilient research community is more important than ever before, and that is the type of community we believe you will witness today through our students' work.