NMSU undergraduate research, creative arts projects in the spotlight


Javier Garcia-Mendoza, a New Mexico State University industrial engineering student, will be one of more than 80 undergraduate students participating in the Undergraduate Research and Creative Arts Symposium on Friday, April 25. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)
Javier Garcia-Mendoza, a New Mexico State University industrial engineering student, will be one of more than 80 undergraduate students participating in the Undergraduate Research and Creative Arts Symposium on Friday, April 25. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

When you think about research in an academic setting, it’s often the purview of faculty members, doctoral candidates or those working toward a master’s degree. But undergraduate students at New Mexico State University are actively involved in top research and creative projects on campus, and they’ll be recognized this week for their efforts.

The Undergraduate Research and Creative Arts Symposium, in its 19th year, will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Friday, April 25, at the Corbett Center Student Union. Since 1996, more than 1,500 students have presented their work at the symposium. Many of the roughly 85 students who will be presenting are completing Honors Thesis projects, while others have worked with mentors in laboratories and other research and arts settings.

Honors College Dean William Eamon said the projects represent a wide variety of disciplines across campus, including science and engineering, the humanities, history, government and many more. The symposium, he said, gives the students the chance to show what they’ve discovered and inspire others to explore their fields.

“Research is about discovery,” Eamon said. “Original research that students do on their own and with a mentor is the kind of work that enables them to really investigate a problem and demonstrate that they’ve mastered the skills and protocols of their chosen fields.”

Industrial engineering student Javier Garcia-Mendoza analyzed red-light violations to determine whether camera monitoring in Las Cruces intersections was changing driver behavior. Garcia-Mendoza worked with faculty mentor Hansuk Sohn and graduate student mentor Alireza Moghimi, both also in industrial engineering, to evaluate the Safe Traffic Operations Program with grant support from the city of Las Cruces.

“I believe that undergraduate research is important, because it involves you more with your faculty,” Garcia-Mendoza said. “My graduate mentor opened my mind to the possibility of searching for paths that are less common for undergraduates.”

Biology student Justin Provo agreed.

“The interaction you get with professors and mentors when you’re doing research is, in my opinion, the most important thing in your undergraduate experience,” said Provo, who worked with faculty mentor Elba Serrano and conducted research at the Indiana University School of Medicine Graduate Division through its Undergraduate Research for Prospective Physician-Scientists program. “Coming out of college with a project like this looks so good to any business or graduate school.”

Provo’s research sought a better understanding of migraine pain pathways.

“We looked at the structure of receptor channels that are involved in migraine pathways that cause pain,” he explained. “We wanted to see how these channels interact and how they function, so that we can find a better, targeted drug to treat the pain associated with migraines.”

Presenting the projects to an audience of peers, family, friends and community members requires a thorough understanding of the results, Provo said, because the people listening might know nothing about the subject matter – or they might know everything.

“It really tests your knowledge of how you know your project and how you know your field,” he said. 

Eamon said the symposium offers a chance for the students to really take ownership of their projects.

“Everything is undergraduate student work, from the research to the design work on the posters, programs and T-shirts,” he said. “It’s an entirely student-driven project.”

The symposium will start with refreshments and opening remarks from NMSU Provost Dan Howard in Corbett Center’s Dona Ana Room, followed by poster sessions in the second floor north lobby area and paper sessions in the Rio Grande, Socorro, New Mexico and Colfax rooms through lunchtime. A luncheon for students in the west ballroom will feature a talk by Sean Rogers, assistant professor of management in the NMSU College of Business, about the implications of paid and unpaid internships for college students.

URCAS is sponsored by the NMSU Honors College, the New Mexico Alliance for Minority Participation, the Minority Access to Research Careers program, the Building Research Achievement in Neuroscience program, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute program, the College Assistance Migrant Program, the Office of the Vice President for Research and the colleges of business, education and engineering.

For more information on the symposium, visit http://honors.nmsu.edu/news/events/urcas, or contact Eamon at[email protected].

Watch this video on YouTube at http://youtu.be/HQn7r0lbOAA.

For more information on this, and other NMSU stories, visit the NMSU News Center.

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