Celebrating Undergraduate & Graduate Research

Published: May 1, 2006

Celebrating Undergraduate & Graduate Research


From opera to organic chemistry, this week puts UMBC’s core commitment to student research and creative activity on center stage for two full days.

The Carnegie Foundation ranks UMBC in the category of Research Universities with high research activity, and this week 120 undergraduates and 95 graduate students will prove that as they share their original, interdisciplinary research findings through oral and poster presentations and free arts performances and exhibits open to the campus community and public.

UMBC’s Tenth Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievement Day (URCAD) on Wednesday, April 26, is the biggest in the event’s nine-year history, having doubled the number of student presenters from last year.

On Friday, April 28, the UMBC and University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB)Graduate Student Associations jointly host the 28th annual 2006 Graduate Research Conference (GRC) at the University Center (U.C.).

Founded in 1997 by the Office of the Provost, URCAD has grown steadily since then and is now a project of the Office of Undergraduate Education. The URCAD experience gives students valuable experience preparing for graduate school or future careers.

“Research experience is part of the distinctive undergraduate education offered at UMBC,” said Diane Lee, Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education. “The 120 students presenting during URCAD are representative of hundreds of students, across all disciplines, conducting research or bringing into existence a new artistic expression or interpretation. Our students and their faculty mentors are to be congratulated on the quality and creativity of these efforts.”

Another key component of UMBC’s commitment to student research is the Undergraduate Research Awards (URA). Each year, students apply during February for these competitive grants of up to $1,500 to support research during the following year. 26 URA scholars from 2005 – 2006 will be presenting their research results at URCAD this week. During the noon session, 36 newly selected URA scholars for 2006 – 2007 will be introduced along with their mentors.

URA scholars will present and perform from a broad spectrum of knowledge on Wednesday.

  • Junior environmental science major Ramya Ambikapathi (pictured on homepage, right) studies the impact of the invasive tree species ‘Tree of Heaven’ on eastern U.S. deciduous forests. Her URCAD project helped prepare her for work this summer with the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Western Ecological Facility in Oregon.
  • Junior music major Christina Finn (pictured on homepage, center) explores both the business and artistic side of her passion for classical opera singing. Her project, “The Art of Auditioning,” will help her prepare for auditions for apprentice programs at three major American opera companies in the fall.
  • Sophomore biological sciences major Rasheeda Johnson (pictured on homepage, left) examines the structure and replication of the bovine leukemia virus, which could yield new approaches to fighting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Johnson does her research in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) lab at UMBC, under the mentorship of HHMI Investigator Michael Summers.

For graduate students, the GRC is a chance to network with peers and mentors while getting a practice run at the rigors of presenting at research conferences in their fields and defending dissertations.

“The GRC provides graduate students with the opportunity to present the results of their ongoing research to peers, faculty members, the University of Maryland community at large and other interested parties,” said Naresh Sunkara, co-chair of the GRC and president of the Chemistry Graduate Student Association.

Like URCAD, the GRC allows graduate students from across disciplines to shine.

  • Computer science Ph.D. student Alark Joshi’swork focuses on better visualization of the structure and evolution of hurricanes.
  • Chemistry Ph.D. student John Kiser is working on a new type of spectroscopy that could help improve outcomes for one of the most difficult-to-remove forms of brain tumor.
  • Language, literacy and culture Ph.D. student Joan Kang Shin studies how online learning environments can provide a unique space for the growth of global communities for teachers of English as a foreign language (EFL).

“We are also excited to have UMBC graduate student alumni attending and judging the conference for the first time, and a big highlight is our keynote speaker Jorge Cham,” said Sunkara.

Cham, an instructor at the California Institute of Technology, is the creator of Piled Higher and Deeper, a highly successful comic strip about graduate school life. In his keynote address, Cham will recount tales of bringing humor into the lives of stressed out academics and explore the guilt, myth and power of procrastination.

URCAD will be held on Wednesday, April 26 from 9 am to 4 pm at the University Center and Fine Arts Building. A full morning session will be devoted to dance and film presentations. The plenary session at noon in U.C. 312 will feature President Hrabowski and two UMBC/URCAD alumni. The complete schedule is available online.

The 2006 Graduate Research Conference will be held on Friday, April 28, from 9 am to 5 pm. Oral presentations will take place in the U.C. Ballroom and ITE building. Posters will be displayed in the Engineering and Computer Science building atrium. The complete schedule is online.








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