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Undergraduate Scholarship: Resilience and Perseverance

By Eddie Hill

The 13th annual Undergraduate Research Symposium, like many other symposia over the last year, was virtual. However, that did not prevent over 150 undergraduates from sharing their scholarship.

On March 21, more than 300 participants listened to and interacted with some of ODU's best undergraduate scholars. These students truly represented being a Monarch. Over the past year, they overcame significant challenges and demonstrated resilience by pursuing scholarship and excelling in their coursework. The entire day was filled with wonderful research and art, and information sessions about how to continue and how to get started in undergraduate research, scholarship, and creativity.

Dr. David Metzger, Dean of the Perry Honors College, began our day with a virtual BINGO, identifying each letter as an outcome for the day (e.g., "B is for 'But, have you considered?'"). We then rolled into six concurrent sessions, from Alexander Burns's Visitor Motivations and Public Health Perceptions During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Case Study from First Landing State Park to Elizabeth Harden's A Qualitative Study of Representations of Socially Stigmatized Individuals in CSI. This first block also hosted information sessions for students to join the Zoom room and learn about: the MMARC program (Monarchs Maximizing Access to Research Careers); College of Sciences research; the high-impact practice Innovate Monarchs; and art assembled by Tamara Dunn. The day continued with an Art History presentation, from Kayla Everett's STEAM at the Forefront of Positive Change: A Virtual Exploration of Ted Ellis's Writing a New History to Eva James's Rituals and Sex and Blood: Pioneering Queer and Feminist Performance Art.

As the day continued, the excitement did as well. Justin Luckenbach, who is studying computer science, shared his research on Connecting a Vintage Macintosh to the Internet, in which he took a 1990 Macintosh and, through Zoom, surfed the ODU website on a 30-year-old computer.Jade Smith et al., representing MMARC students, shared their research on the Analysis of Fecal Microbiome Composition During Development of Chronic Schistosomiasis in Mice. Ryan Malpaya, an Exercise Science student, interviewed young people with type 1 diabetes about their recreation experience over Zoom. He talked about his research during the pandemic in "It's Pretty Hard to Make Friends Over a Zoom Meeting Room": Understanding the Recreational Experiences of Youth With Type 1 Diabetes During COVID-19.

We ended the day with a student panel. Six students who had conducted research on COVID during the pandemic talked about the challenges they faced and recommendations for new scholars. Kieran Rundle, Kaylee Kaznosky, Annika Cerda, Ryan Malpaya, Dawntenai Ramsey, and Huyen Nguyen all shared their research experience and lessons learned. They also discussed how they would conduct their research next time based on new knowledge.

For chemistry major Scarlet Aguilar-Martinez (The Production of Diverse Terrigenous and Marine DOM After the Photo-irradiation of a Monolignol), the Undergraduate Research Symposium was a wonderful multi-discipline affair.

"Research at ODU is diverse," she said afterward, "and outside the symposium, we rarely if ever get a chance to see others' work. As a budding physical scientist, I cannot imagine how historians, marketing or art majors conduct research, so it's fun to meet those who do."

She said the most important thing she learned while conducting her research was that "many times, instruments break down. I learned how to persevere against these challenges while also gaining valuable skills in instrument troubleshooting and maintenance, which is an essential skill for environmental research."

The Undergraduate Research Symposium was certainly a celebration of student scholarship, covering everything from creating amazing art to using a mass spectrometer ... all with a meaningful application to or engagement with the real world. With the incredible support of ODU's Distance Learning, we were able to share the symposium with people all over the country.

Eddie Hill, Ph.D., is Old Dominion University's director of undergraduate research and an associate professor in the Park, Recreation and Tourism Studies Program in the Darden College of Education & Professional Studies.

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