UROP Symposium features student research projects

Amanda Allen/Daily
LSA sophomore Maxwell Crow and LSA freshman Sarah Chauhdry present research on "Legacy Corps for Active Military and Their Families" for the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) Symposium at the Michigan League on Wednesday. Buy this photo

By Isobel Futter, Daily Staff Reporter
Published April 22, 2015

Students in the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program presented their work in the Spring Research Symposium on Wednesday in the Michigan League. Participants shared posters that showcased the research they did throughout the year.

UROP is a program that creates research connections between University students and researchers. For either credit or work-study grants, students apply to work on particular research projects throughout the year.

UROP Director Sandra Gregerman said the symposium gives students an opportunity to reflect on all they have learned throughout the year. She said students often are not familiar with the projects they sign up for.

“By the end of the year, they are experts in sometimes some really technical fields,” Gregerman said. “The symposium is a way for them to share all the knowledge that they’ve learned and to learn professional research skills about designing posters and giving presentations.”

The program offers research opportunities in a vast amount of fields. There are UROP projects available in each of the 19 colleges at the University.

LSA Dean Andrew Martin said he would have been a part of UROP had he attended the University.

“The education that takes people in UROP is not just a set of courses, but a robust community of scholars and learners who work together to create knowledge,” Martin said. “UROP is one of the programs that defines the 'Michigan Difference'.”

LSA sophomore Daayun Chung participated in a biology project, in which she measured the effects of gene deletion on growth profiles in various environments.

“Through UROP, I’ve learned a lot about how to actually pose research questions, do actual data analysis and see what sort of result that I got,” Chung said.

Chung said that the symposium is a great conclusion to the UROP experience.

“The symposium has given me a chance to actually talk about this work,” Chung said. “It allows me to reflect on what I did, and it’s also helpful to look at other people’s work and see what they did.”

LSA sophomore Madison Lull agreed that seeing other people’s projects was a pivotal part of the UROP experience.

“It’s a cool thing to be able to see different kinds of research, besides your own,” Lull said. “My project was biomedical, but it was cool to see people who have done psychology or history and seeing the methods that people have used.”

Gregerman said the majority of students in UROP apply for either biomedical, health sciences or engineering projects. However, she said, the program also offers a variety of social science projects as well.

“We’d love to see more students in the social science area,” Gregerman said. “People often think of us as a ‘white lab coat’ program, and we have spent years really trying to dispel that. We have dance projects and literature projects, and we’d love more of that.”

LSA freshman Rebecca Farag was a participant in one of the social science projects. Working as a research assistant at a local Spanish language school, she helped run a “shared reading program” for four-and five-year-olds. The project intended to create a “reading relationship” between parents and children, as well as enhance the language skills of the participants.

“Basically, what we would do is administer books on a weekly basis that would incorporate and target academic Spanish vocabulary that these children would use for their reading,” Farag said. “We would discuss the words in class, and they would take home these books and read it with their parents.”

Farag said the project allowed her to see direct results in the childrens’ lives.

“It’s so worthwhile to be working with families and helping the children to see how your knowledge and academics will help them,” Farag said.

LSA sophomore Tyler Trask said he believes UROP gave him the opportunity to gain experience in a field that he may want to pursue somday.

“I’ve gained a lot of experience in pharmacology, which, going into it, I had almost no knowledge of,” Trask said. “It seems like this is a really good place for me to focus my efforts because it has such real world implication. It affects a lot of people, so we’re trying to find safer, more effective drugs.”

Many of the students who presented their projects said they plan to continue with the program next year.

“We’re a research university, but the majority of students don’t come here and say, ‘I’ve come to the University of Michigan for the research opportunities,’” Gregerman said. “But, really, if they’re not participating in research, they’re not really taking advantage of coming to one of the leading research universities in the entire world.”