UROP event celebrates a year of faculty, student research


When 1,300 students and 900 faculty-staff mentors gather Wednesday to show off the work they’ve been doing together this year, the projects will include research on self-driving cars, police-involved shootings, diagnostics for cancer treatment-related injuries, and a performance piece celebrating U-M’s bicentennial by honoring Ann Arbor.

The event is the annual Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program Spring Research Symposium from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Michigan Union.

“Hearing the students, now experts in their fields, share what they have learned in collaboration with UROP ​research mentors is the highlight of the year for me,” said UROP director Sandra Gregerman. “It is also a great snapshot of the breadth and diversity of the research taking place at U-M. Those in attendance leave in awe of this place and by our students and the impact research has had on their academic experience here.”

LSA student Bethany Zalewski, who was involved with a project that uses a simulator to look at how drivers behave in a self-driving car, said she has “found new respect for research” and the “time and effort that goes into it.”

“I have learned to collaborate with others and communicate effectively and efficiently. I also learned to get excited about the work I am doing in order to stay interested, especially when doing long, tedious tasks,” Zalewski said.

“I have learned to work quickly and, because of all the time I have put into this project, I have learned to think about new directions we can go with our research. I am excited to continue my work next year and begin my own study on the self-driving car and how to market it.”

Since 1988, when it started with 14 faculty-student partnerships, this unique program has served as a national model for involving undergraduates in faculty research.

School of Music, Theatre & Dance faculty mentor Christianne Myers, who works with undergraduates all of the time in her school, enjoyed mentoring Jillian Li, a first-year LSA student, on designing an upcoming performance to celebrate the university’s bicentennial.

“One of the greatest joys for me was the connection with the broader university,” said Myers, associate professor of theatre and drama. “There is a real concerted effort to bust silos and this is one of those opportunities.”

Myers’ project, “The river in our city: The river in our veins,” is described as an exploration of the intersection of science, the arts, advocacy and public engagement. It involves SMTD, the Stamps School of Art and Design and the School of Natural Resources and Environment.

A project from the Musculoskeletal Biomechanics and Imaging Laboratory used students to gather data on shoulder impairments in breast cancer patients treated with radiation or surgery.

Research titled “Race-Based Motivated Reasoning: Evidence from Police-Involved Shootings” explored “whether whites and blacks behave as biased information processors when encountering police-involved shootings.”

Each hour during the symposium a different set of 140 posters from the UROP students will be on display. Fifty-two students will also give various oral presentations of their work. They are from the Research Scholars program and are returning to UROP for a second year to dive deeper into the research process and the dissemination of scientific knowledge. Getting prepared for these talks also was part of the training.

A campus group called RELATE that has a goal of training and encouraging scientists to share their research with the public coached the students on how to give various talks: a quick lightning round/elevator speech, a longer presentation similar to what one would give at a professional conference, and a bit longer TED-style talk.


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