After months of fieldwork and long hours in the lab, the winners of the Provost Undergraduate Research Awards for summer and fall 1997 were finally given the opportunity to let others take a look at the results of all their hard work. Nearly 100 students and faculty members gathered March 26 at Levering Hall's Glass Pavilion on the Homewood campus as the 50 research award winners displayed their results at a poster session and accepted their certificates of completion.
The Gazette asked the students what they learned, about not only their subject but the entire research process.
Sometimes, they said, what you learn isn't what you expect.
Eric Edmonds, Vista,
Edmonds said past fieldworkers on his subject had identified other song types as male finches court the female of the species, but he wasn't quite prepared for the diversity of a male's repertoire.
"He throws everything but the kitchen sink at her," Edmonds said. "Not only does he mimic other birds, he mimics chipmunks, squirrels and anything that has a type of chirping or whistling sound. But he's not going to be a mockingbird, a car siren or something like that."
Jenny Hong, Carrollton,
Hong, who studied the impact of calcium in the brain, said she found out that research entails a lot of repetition.
"I learned that results don't just come in ones," Hong said. "We had to go over and redo these experiments many, many times. It's a frustrating process at times, but the end result is so worthwhile."
Marzban Rad, Fremont,
Rad said his research is an exacting science.
"You set up an experiment as perfectly as you can, and you try to account for all the variables, such as keeping the pressure constant," Rad said. "But it's easy to say 'Try to keep everything constant,' but at the end of the experiment you realize two or three variables you haven't accounted for. That was one of the big shocks. You can try to do everything perfectly, but it just doesn't work out sometimes. It's not like class when they all work out."
Galloway said she wished she had more data to support her results, but she understands that this is just the beginning of her research with adolescents.
"I think [the Provost Awards] are a great opportunity to see a project through from beginning to end," Galloway said. "I think it's important to work something though on your own. You find things and you make the conclusions."
Arcadia, Calif. (right)
Thakral, working with fellow student Louis Stein (left in photograph), was trying to improve the performance of artificial hearts by working on rabbit hearts.
"Amazingly, we actually got data that showed what we wanted to see. Not as much an improvement as we were hoping for, but enough that we could take our results to a company and say 'Perhaps this is something you want to try,' " Thakral said. "I'm hoping to make this my master's thesis. Next we want to work on open-chest canine models where we would keep the heart inside the model."
Patrascanu went to Romania to study the transition of the country's agricultural sector from 1989, when it was state-owned, to a free-market economy. But she was surprised how different Romania's culture is from America's.
"I was in shock that it was a totally different world. Everything works differently there, like people have a different perception of time," Patrascanu said. "We take things for granted, like being punctual. If I say I'm going to be there at 10 a.m., I'll be there, and the meeting will start at 10. But in Romania you get there around 10:30, have some coffee and then take a break. It's much more relaxed."