MSU Research Week allows students to showcase work

Two students are studying in the Colvard Student Union.

Mississippi State University held its annual Research Week from April 11 to April 14, which included the Spring Undergraduate Research Symposium.

Held in the Colvard Student Union, the symposium is hosted yearly by the Shackouls Honors College.

It is hosted to give undergraduate students experience with presenting research while graduate students work as judges.

MSU faculty members randomly assigned graduate students to judge an area they had some knowledge about.

The scoring sheet was rated out of 100 points.

50 of these points were designated for the research. This section included the layout of the project, project conclusions and literary reviews.

Up to 20 points could be awarded based on the visual design, while the presentation of the project was graded out of 30 points.

In order to reach 100 points, students were required to understand their research, explain it to others and answer the judges' questions.

Rebecca Bracken, a graduate student studying forest resources, acted as a judge during the second day of the symposium.

"I've been doing a number of different symposiums across the country, even some international meetings, so this was really just a good opportunity for me to flip it around and be on the judging side and not on the student side for once," Bracken said.

Bracken explained how the event benefitted her and other graduate students.

"We very rarely get to flip the tables, and we're normally being judged, so this will really help us in our future careers as well," Bracken said.

There were many topics from different fields of study on display.

Madeline Gnann, sophomore majoring in sustainable bioproducts, displayed her presentation called "Hydrophobic Paper Prepared by Metal-Ion-Modification for Packaging."

She studied turning water-dissolvable paper into water-resistant paper.

Another student, Jessica Tomasi, a senior majoring in wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture, presented her research named "Restoring Northern Bobwhite Habitat in Rank Native Warm Season Grass Stands."

Tomasi explained how her presentation involved managing grass to help preserve the northern bobwhite quail.

"Historically, bobwhites have been declining for decades, and restoration groups often included the establishment of native, warm season grasses. They were often planted way too big or just not properly managed," Tomasi said.

Tomasi, with the help of her professor, wanted her project to identify different methods of reducing grass thickness to help the bobwhites.

Anastasia Elder, associate dean and director of Shackouls Honors College, was heavily involved in the planning of the symposium. 

Elder said the event previously was held on one day, but this year it was held over multiple days.

"We wanted to divide it out by category because we wanted to make sure people felt comfortable and were well spaced out," Elder said. "That is why we've had this event over two days and three different poster sessions."

Based on the field of study, three separate poster competitions were offered at the symposium.

On April 13, research based around physical sciences and certain engineering fields were presented and followed by research of the arts, humanities and social sciences.

On April 14, biological sciences and additional engineering students presented their research.

In addition to the poster competition, students were able to enter a thesis competition. Students had three minutes to explain their research with a single presentation slide.

"That's a great opportunity for them to have experience in informing a more general public about what the nature of their research is and to do it in a very timely fashion," Elder said about the brief presentation schedule.

Elder encouraged all students to enter the symposium with their own research.

"Research is a great activity for undergraduates to be involved in because it allows them to learn more about their field," Elder said. "They start getting a sense of how people come to know what they read in a textbook."

To view more research presented at the symposium, visit the Shackouls Honors College website.

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