UA psychology professor Mary Peterson kicked off this semester’s “Science of the Senses” Science
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Dozens of undergraduate researchers will present their original work during the Honors Research Expo, which is now in its 25th year.
Research topics this year include integrating solar technology into existing airplanes, the study of women's rights and the emergence of justice organizations in Guatemala City.
In its 25th year, the expo will be held Feb. 15, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the South Ballroom of the Student Union Memorial Center, 1303 E. University Blvd. The event is free and open to the UA and Tucson community.
First established in 1987, the Undergraduate Research Grant Program enables students to design and conduct their own research projects and present their findings at the expo.
"Discovery is at the heart of the mission of the University of Arizona and its Honors College," said Patricia MacCorquodale, dean of The Honors College.
"Through the Undergraduate Research Grant Program, students are able to reach far beyond the traditional classroom setting and participate in experiential learning through hands-on research," she added, noting that many projects result in publications, conference presentations, job offers and fellowships to graduate school.
The 32 students – 25 of them being Honors College students – selected to present are undergraduate researchers studying in disciplines that include engineering, medicine, management, agriculture, the arts, humanities and social and behavioral sciences.
Among the students to present, along with their projects, are:
Another presenter, Jesus Misael Barraza-Diaz, used his undergraduate research grant to go to Spain and study flamenco guitar and its influences in Spanish classical guitar.
"I wanted to understand the languages between the two guitar genres and what could be transferred between them," said Barraza-Diaz, a senior studying guitar performance.
"Thanks to the support of The Honors College, I was able to study in Spain with a true flamenco professor and learn to play," he added.
Barraza-Diaz also credits his mentor UA Professor Tom Patterson, head of guitar studies, who helped him through the undergraduate research process. "He has a wonderful relationship with the Honors College and I was so grateful to work with him. He picked the piece for me to play, which is what I'll be performing at the research expo."
Stephen Wallace, an Honors College senior studying molecular and cellular biology, focused on the specificity between insect parasitic nematodes, also known as roundworms, and their bacterial symbionts.
He was able to study the relationship between the two organisms and answer key questions on mutualistic interactions, such as symbiont specificity, and the mechanisms that enable host and symbiont to associate with each other and team up for a given function.
Wallace, who said it was his first research experience, became interested in the topic through a lecture by UA entomologist Patricia Stock.
"I loved that lecture so much that I was able to gain her support and the support of the Honors College to do the research," Wallace said.
Sarah Klopatek, an Honors College junior studying animal science with an emphasis on equine science, wanted to pursue veterinarian research.
Klopatek used her undergraduate research grant to study the density of blood vessels that supply the pancreas and islets of Langerhans in normal and growth-restricted sheep fetuses.
"This was fascinating to me because I wanted to understand what factors can contribute to the early development of B-cell failure leading to diabetes," Klopatek said. "I wanted to look at prenatal care and ways to improve it to help lower the risk of diabetes."
Working closely with Sean Limesand, an associate professor of animal sciences, her research yielded results that were never seen before. Klopatek is now hoping to take her abstract to a national convention and potentially have a paper published.
"I feel very honored to have gone through this experience at such a young age," Klopatek said. "I want to encourage other people to get involved in undergraduate research because when you find those results, you know it's all worth it because you're contributing to something bigger than yourself."
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