Aiding her travel costs was a UH Undergraduate Research Travel Fellowship. Administered through the university's Office of Undergraduate Discovery Programs (OUDP), these funds provide students with financial support to attend out-of-town academic meetings and conferences.
"The conference was awe inspiring! I was able to see the whole spectrum of research conducted in the field of child development," Baker said. "This fellowship allowed me to focus on the content of the conference. Having a secured source of payment for meals and other incidentals made it possible for me to attend the lectures without having to worry about my pocketbook."
Undergraduate students who have submitted an abstract for presentation at a national or international conference are eligible to apply for Undergraduate Research Travel Fellowships. Applications must be submitted at least 30 days prior to travel. For more details or to download an application, visit http://www.uh.edu/discovery/UGResearchTravelFellowship.html.
"Providing conference travel support for students is one of the ways we are expanding opportunities for undergraduates to share their research and showcase their creative work," said Veronique Tran, director of the OUDP.
Baker is just one of the undergraduate researchers who earned a travel fellowship this spring. Other recipients include senior biology student Mina Tabatabai. This month, she will present her poster "Engineering of a hybrid enzyme to study thromboxane A2 mediating vascular diseases" at the Experimental Biology Meeting in New Orleans.
Also benefitting from the fellowships are junior chemistry major Huy Nguyen and senior chemistry major Greg Whittaker. In May, both will attend the 2009 Vision Sciences Society Meeting in Naples, Fla., to deliver a presentation on their research focused on how the eye can be stimulated during sleep.
"It is important and beneficial for undergraduate researchers to attend meetings and conferences. They offer great opportunities for students to exchange ideas and to demonstrate their successes," Nguyen said.
Mentoring Nguyen and Whittaker is Bhavin Sheth, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering. In addition to guiding them through their research, he will offer pointers on how to present the information before the meeting in Florida.
Sheth sees this opportunity as one that will not only facilitate an exchange of knowledge but generate constructive feedback from peers and professors from other institutions.
"This meeting will provide both of these students with the experience of presenting research to the outside world and the experience of being critiqued," he said. "Feedback from peers is priceless. It can even excite an undergraduate to continue research efforts in graduate school."
Nguyen and Whittaker have confirmed that they will attend graduate school. Nguyen is pondering a graduate degree in either chemistry or pharmacy. Whittaker, however, already has set his sights on returning to UH to pursue a master's degree in chemistry. He sees the upcoming Vision Sciences Society Meeting as a perfect opportunity to prepare for the next chapter in his academic career.
"Presenting research at an event like this is a great way to get your name out there and gain substantial recognition for the work and research you have been doing," he said. "It looks great not only on your résumé but also when applying for graduate school. Any sort of publications you have or presentations you have made can certainly help you stand out against your fellow classmates."
To qualify for a travel fellowship, students must be selected to present their work at a regional or national venue by conference organizers. Applications are accepted and reviewed by a faculty committee as coordinated by the Office of Undergraduate Research. The Office of Undergraduate Discovery Programs administers the program once the fellows have been notified of their award.
UH Undergraduate Research Travel Fellowships are part of the university's Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) - the Learning through Discovery Initiative at the University of Houston. The initiative kicked off in fall 2008 as the university's QEP. As part of its reaffirmation of accreditation by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, UH developed a QEP centered on enhancing student learning. To learn more about other programs and resources of the Learning through Discovery Initiative, visit http://www.uh.edu/discovery/.
"The travel fellowship program awards student scholars who have achieved success in their research," said John Antel, UH provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. "It also provides opportunities for them to learn about the latest developments in their field while networking with leading experts. Not only are students disseminating their work in a professional environment, they are serving as UH ambassadors."
About the University of Houston
The University of Houston, Texas' premier metropolitan research and teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research centers and institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with corporate, civic and governmental entities. UH, the most diverse research university in the country, stands at the forefront of education, research and service with more than 35,000 students.
For more information about UH, visit the university's Newsroom at www.uh.edu/newsroom.