Studying everything from native Montana clay for ceramics, to alternative energy sources, to captive elephants in Thailand, they will share their findings from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in MSU's Strand Union Building. The Student Research Celebration - free and open to the public - is one of 16 events planned for MSU's newly designated Student Research Month.
Undergraduate and graduate students in all disciplines will present projects involving such things as reaction times in fighter pilots and helicopter pilots, nutrients in prairie potholes, small towns across southern Montana, mental health among Mexican migrants, and the use of carbon dioxide to control invasive bullfrogs.
Those and dozens of other research and creative projects enhance education and give students a voice by helping them realize they are capable of making scientific contributions even as undergraduates, said Colin Shaw, director of MSU's Undergraduate Scholars Program which co-sponsors the Student Research Celebration with MSU's Graduate School. Conducting research also helps undergraduates succeed when they apply to graduate school, look for jobs or apply for prestigious scholarships.
David Halat, for example, is an MSU junior who researches the high-temperature surface chemistry that takes place on solid oxide fuel cells, a technology that holds promise as an alternative energy source. He recently won MSU's 54th Goldwater Scholarship, the nation's premier scholarship for undergraduates studying math, natural sciences and engineering since the Goldwater Foundation was established in 1986.
Halat and Brian Redman, a runner-up for the Goldwater, are among those who will present their research at the Student Research Celebration. Redman, who has interned at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, will explain a new type of instrument he built for infrared cloud imaging. The information it gathers may be useful for climate studies and communications.
One of the many presenters from the humanities will be Jennifer Thornburg, one of 20 MSU students who recently presented their projects at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research in Ogden, Utah. Thornburg translated one of the earliest Old English poems, "The Dream of the Rood," into modern English, then illustrated it with original artwork. Rood is the Old Norse, or Viking word, for cross.
MSU had held a conference devoted to student research nearly every year since 1991, but this is the first year that MSU has devoted an entire month to student research and creative projects, Shaw said.
The month began with MSU students attending the National Conference on Undergraduate Research. It will end with the annual Educational Research Symposium on May 2. Between those two events are a variety of colloquiums, exhibits and festivals. One event already held was a panel where six undergraduates discussed how faculty can foster undergraduate research. At the same time, the students expressed enthusiasm for their mentors and research.
"Seeing something for the first time that no one has ever seen before is really exhilarating. It's really cool," said sophomore Emma Murter.
At the Earth Science Colloquium on April 6, graduate student Zach Adam - the recipient of a 2011 NSF Graduate Fellowship -- described 1.4 billion-year-old microfossils he found in a layer of rocks known as the Belt Supergroup. The rocks are found in Glacier National Park and all over western Montana. Tom Matthews discussed properties of wind-loaded snow in the Bridger Mountains, a topic that relates to avalanche predictions. Eric Easley shared his proposal for analyzing the Bakken formation in central and eastern Montana. Understanding and being able to predict shale fractures will help in such areas as oil development and carbon capture, he said.
Student Research Month includes exhibits, too. Two exhibits by architecture students will be displayed through April 21 in the Lower Gallery of Cheever Hall. Ben Larson traveled to Norway last summer to study Norwegian stave churches. His exhibit includes drawings and models that show how the exposed joinery create a unique structure and expression of form. Norwegian stave churches were built between 1100 and 1300 and are considered masterpieces of timber construction.
An exhibit by Milenka Jirasko shows the power and impact of the Auschwitz concentration camp on modern visitors, as well as the impact of visitors on some of the artifacts still at Auschwitz. Jirasko traveled to Poland last summer. Her photos, site plan drawings and sketches are featured in the exhibit titled, "Surfaces of Auschwitz."
Other upcoming exhibits and events during Student Research Month are:
April 18-19 - Exhibit on "Uitpok: Participant Visual Interventions in Community Based Research," by Christopher J. Carter. SUB 232.
April 18-20 - Montana INBRE Network Research and Training Symposium. SUB Ballrooms.
April 20 -- The Montana Space Grant Consortium Statewide Symposium. College students from all over Montana will present their research in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the SUB Ballrooms and room 233. Also speaking will be a mobility engineer for a Mars rover and a world-famous sky watcher who discovered 22 comets.
April 21 -- Astronomy Day, sponsored by the Montana Space Grant Consortium. 1 to 4 p.m. at MSU's Museum of the Rockies.
April 24 - Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry Student Poster Session. 4:30 to 6 p.m. in the lobby of MSU's Chemistry and Biochemistry Building.
April 26 - Engineering Design Fair, noon to 5 p.m. in SUB Ballroom A.
May 2 - Annual Educational Research Symposium. 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., MSU SUB Ballroom A.
Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or firstname.lastname@example.org