From exploring the impact of climate change and human influence on soil formation to examining real-world applications of mathematics in education, Montclair State University’s annual Student Research Symposium featured nearly 200 undergraduate and graduate student projects spanning a diverse range of disciplines.
The students presented their research in four poster presentation sessions that provided students the opportunity to showcase their research questions, methods and conclusions on Wednesday, April 26 in the University Hall Conference Center.
The event was attended by students, faculty and members of the surrounding communities, including a high school class field trip aimed at getting a glimpse into the cutting-edge research being conducted by Montclair students.
“The idea behind this event is to create a venue where people can see the great work students are producing and a way to sort of maximize what the University does naturally to help students develop more skills that they’ll take on with them,” says Jessica Brandt, the associate dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and one of the event’s organizers.
In his welcoming address, President Jonathan Koppell commended the students for their exceptional work and emphasized the importance of research in advancing knowledge and driving innovation.
“The point of today is to underscore how the learning experience that involves inquiry, that involves the creation of models for the testing of hypotheses, is qualitatively different than one that doesn’t include those opportunities. Students who are involved in the production of models or in the process of an inquiry gain an insight into the world that is enormously valuable,” he said during his remarks. “I’m excited to see the students here who are clearly engaged in work that’s interesting and exciting to them and that they’re going to join the community of those creating knowledge.”
The symposium, sponsored by the Office of Research, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Science and Mathematics and the College of Education and Human Services, also featured a line of table booths to assist students with their research and answer their questions.
Students appreciated the opportunity to showcase their work and engage with other researchers. For John Eakley, a senior Biochemistry major, the opportunity to showcase his research in Organic Chemistry gave him the experience he needs for his professional career aspirations.
“This opportunity gives me more practice in public speaking and educating other audiences, and also if something’s pretty complex, I could break it down. So someone who’s not science-oriented could still process what I’m talking about which will help my goal of being a physician. So most of my patients might not know how medicine works, but I want to be able to articulate in a way for them to understand their prognoses, and to me, that’s why this is also important in the learning experience,” Eakley said at the event.
Carly DeLucca, a senior majoring in Sustainability Studies, presented her research on locating urban heat islands in Montclair and her proposal for mitigation techniques for combating them. DeLucca said this research opportunity helped her prepare for her future career.
“This opportunity will help me be a better researcher essentially,” DeLucca said. “It definitely helps me present my research and gather all my future findings into a more cohesive way that I could tell people about in a way that makes sense. ”
For Michaela Forbes, a senior studying Environmental Science, the research symposium was a great end to her senior year.
“This is the first time I’ve done research by myself with the help of a mentor before so that was a really good experience and then also just being able to conclude my time here and to present well, I think will help me in the future,” Forbes said.
Geena Taite, a doctoral student in the Mathematics Education program and a full-time high school mathematics teacher, focused her research on improving how applications of mathematics are taught in schools by providing more professional development in math modeling. Taite was joined by her fellow high school mathematics students who came to gain some insight into research at the undergraduate and graduate level.
“This event is definitely good to get some practice runs of presenting in front of other people in developing those kinds of communication skills and also having other people hear about your research and their wonderings about all the details of the research,” Taite said. “When I found out about this research symposium from my advisor, my research team and I decided it would be a great idea to be able to share our research with the Montclair community.”
To conclude the event, Brandt expressed what she hoped the student researchers received from the symposium.
“I hope they take away a sense of confidence in the work that they do and learn how to take ownership of a project with the confidence to present it to other people. And for some of the students who are working with faculty and working with other teams, learn that skill of what it is to be a part of a team that produces a particular project which you have to then present to others who might not know anything about it,” Brandt said. “And maybe for some of them, a spark to continue to do research or think of ways to apply what they’ve done in the community and beyond.”
Story by Rosaria Lo Presti. Photos by John J. LaRosa.