Undergraduate research on display during summer symposium

In the first event of its kind since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, East Carolina University undergraduate researchers gathered to share their work as part of the university’s weeklong summer symposium.

The 2021 Undergraduate Research Summer Symposium featured virtual and in-person presentations, with 11 undergraduate students presenting in ECU’s Main Campus Student Center at the Biomedical Engineering in Simulations, Imaging and Modeling Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) poster session.

East Carolina University undergraduate student Nikole Galman, right, shares her research poster with an audience member at the Biomedical Engineering in Simulations, Imaging and Modeling Research Experience for Undergraduates poster session. The session was part of ECU’s weeklong 2021 Undergraduate Research Summer which featured virtual and in-person events. (Photo by Rhett Butler)

Thirty-four posters were presented from July 19-23 across the university’s four REU programs, with additional presenters from the Resilience and Adaptation to Coastal Change Across Virtual Communities REU, Chemistry and Biochemistry REU, and Software and Data Analytics REU.

In all, more than 420 visitors attended the event with 2,600 total presentation views.

“We have had a summer undergraduate research symposium at ECU in the past, but we did not have one last summer due to COVID,” said Mary Farwell, director of undergraduate research. “We have many students carrying out mentored research projects that wanted an opportunity to present their research outcomes.

“We also wanted to support our National Science Foundation-funded research experiences for undergraduates programs on campus,” she said. “Summer is an excellent time to spend on research since there’s more time available to dedicate to their project.”

Students presented in 10 categories ranging from computational sciences and health sciences to engineering and social sciences.

Nikole Galman, a rising senior majoring in exercise physiology, spoke to a group of students about her research project on the effects of aging on brain activation and motor control.

“It means a lot to me to be able to share my work because research is definitely something I have a passion for,” Galman said. “I’ve been able to make connections with new friends, faculty and students here. It’s been great getting to know them, and it’s been fun to meet people who have the same passion as me.”

Students participating in the REU programs are not just limited to ECU. REU participants traveled from all over the country, from as far west as Utah and as far north as Connecticut.

Having the opportunity to share ideas with students from different universities was appealing to engineering major Nicholas Adams.

“It’s been amazing to get to know these people and hear their experiences,” Adams said. “I hope they really enjoyed their research experience and enjoyed Greenville. Hopefully they’ll think about attending graduate school here.”

With summer coming to a close, undergraduate research is ramping up at ECU.

The office’s annual fall Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Awards deadline is Sept. 24. The awards provide thousands of dollars to undergraduate researchers each semester to support their faculty mentored projects. Students can begin applying during the second week of the fall semester.