Research Beyond Term Papers: UH Undergrads Showcase Work


Second Annual Undergraduate Research Day Includes Students from All Disciplines


From artistic metal jewelry creations to the movement patterns of penguins, nearly 50 undergraduate University of Houston students have worked on ambitious research projects well beyond what is required to pass a term paper.

These offerings – done by students who participated in UH’s 10-week, full-time Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF-UH) program – will be highlighted at the Office of Undergraduate Research’s second annual Undergraduate Research Day 3:30 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 18.

“A strong undergraduate research program is an effective link between the intellectual environment of academia, the processes of discovery – whether science or the humanities – and the needs of industry and our global community,” said Donald L. Birx, vice chancellor for research for the UH System and vice president for research for UH. “It opens the gates of opportunity for a diverse population. The state and region that address this topic with enthusiasm will lead the country and position itself competitively in the global economy for years to come.”

Participants in this summer’s SURF-UH program whose work will be featured at this event include studio art major Katalin Markus working under Valentine Link, associate professor of art, jewelry and metalsmithing, learning to apply a color selection system to her metal jewelry creations that involves mathematically determining the level of contrast in artwork; biology major (and Honors College member) Elizabeth Wason working alongside Steven Pennings, associate professor of biology and biochemistry, on research studying grasshopper species in the Atlantic Coast marshes of Georgia; biology and biochemistry major Michelle McNerney working with Max Kurz, assistant professor of health and human performance, on calculating the mechanical energy of penguin movement patterns; and English literature major Blake Whitaker working together with Irving Rothman, professor of English, conducting a computer-based linguistic analysis that studied varying editions of Daniel Defoe’s “Robinson Crusoe.”

“Undergraduate research provides incentives to stay in school through hands-on involvement in research issues of the day, as well as granting access to partnerships with industry and academic mentors that ties them in with the research and development applications of tomorrow,” Birx said. “UH will be developing research clusters that provide a mechanism to link the research community, state and federal agencies, and industry together for common purposes, while creating a nurturing environment for undergraduate research in areas of strategic importance to the region.”

Birx, along with Donald J. Foss, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost for UH, and Stuart Long, associate dean of undergraduate research and faculty fellow in The Honors College, will all speak at the event on the importance of undergraduate research, not only to the student participants, but also to UH and the City of Houston.

WHAT: Undergraduate Research Day

WHEN: 3:30 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 18

WHERE: University of Houston
M.D. Anderson Library
Rockwell Pavilion (Room 214A)
WHO: UH Office of Undergraduate Research