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Undergraduate Research Day Virtually Excels

By Jillian Holden

The Office of Undergraduate Research and Major Awards and the Honors College collaboratively worked to organize a successful 16th Annual 2021 Undergraduate Research Day (URD) despite the challenges of the pandemic. Virtually held Thursday, April 1st, it featured a diverse range of research projects from University of Houston undergraduate students from 12 colleges and over 30 departments.

“UH students have continued to show remarkable resiliency and an ability to adapt to challenges both in and outside the classroom,” Brittni MacLeod, associate director of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Major Awards said. “I’m truly in awe of the work our students have pursued over the past year and proud to support them alongside our fantastic faculty.”

URD is an engaging, campus-wide event organized to link undergraduate researchers to other students, faculty, staff and professionals in their field to gain crucial skills that will serve them beyond their undergraduate career. Over 250 presentations, over 170 hours of engagement and more than 2,700 visitors participated in URD.

“We have now had two virtual Undergraduate Research Days with thousands of poster views and strong engagement,” MacLeod said. “Although we are hopeful that the 2022 Undergraduate Research Day will take place in person, I’m grateful to have had support from the Honors College to bring the ForagerOne Symposium platform to our students.”

URD regaled the outstanding research and presentations of three students. 2020 SURF recipient and biochemistry major Sarah Attia, mentored by Associate Professor Jennifer Vardeman, presented “Understanding the Perceptions Surrounding Pelvic Floor Disorders within Arab American Communities.” Driven to collect more data about the perceptions surrounding pelvic floor disorders within Arab American communities, Attia interviewed women of different Middle Eastern backgrounds to produce culturally sensitive materials to use in the health care field.

Paulina Fernandez, 2020 Mellon Research Scholar mentored by Honors College Assistant Professor Johanna Luttrell, gave a presentation titled “Environmental Justice in Houston: A Virtue Ethics Approach” that focused on three main ethical theories of environmental injustices in Houston, Texas: consequentialism, deontology and virtue ethic.

Urvi Sakhuja, a 2020 SURF recipient mentored by Associate Professor Hanako Yoshida, displayed a poster titled, “Attentional Behaviors During Social Interaction in Children with Autism.” Focused on an autistic child’s learning, development and attention in schools and at home, Yoshida utilized a head-mounted eye tracker during parent-child naturalistic object play sessions to note environmental processing during social interaction.

Individuals who wish to view or comment on posters may visit, which will be accessible throughout the spring 2021 semester. The call for submissions will open again in November, and mark your calendars – The next URD will be held Thursday, April 14, 2022. If you have any questions or need to contact a presenter, please email Brittni MacLeod at