Karla Karcioglu, Roving Editor Ω
Over 100 undergraduate students from TRU and other B.C. universities converged on campus for two days for the ninth annual TRU Undergraduate Research and Innovation Conference. The conference provided an opportunity for peers to share their academic work with each other and the greater community.
Although normally the conference would only feature TRU students, this year it was TRU’s turn to host the regional exhibit for science research.
On March 28, 80 students displayed posters of their research on Student Street and were on hand to discuss their work and answer questions. About 15 students travelled to TRU from other B.C. universities including University of the Fraser Valley, Trinity Western University and University of British Columbia Okanagan. Research topics covered a wide range of disciplines from environmental studies, mathematics, psychology, modern languages, adventure studies and more.
The following day was jam packed with over 60 TRU student presentations, taking place in various rooms of the International Building. Students were grouped in threes for their presentations. Elizabeth Rennie, TRU librarian and event organizer, said the goal was to provide a variety of speakers and topics for each room, providing an opportunity for unexpected network building, as attendees who might be there for one particular speaker will be exposed to another two they may find interesting.
“It’s those connections that I actually enjoy the most. Seeing how two people who may have not come into contact, realize maybe there are some similarities about their research process that they have in common,” Rennie said.
Meanwhile, during speaker presentations, 16 service learning students’ research posters were on display in the Panorama Room upstairs for people to look through during break times. The posters focused on the students’ reflections of volunteering at various places in town while attending school.
The two-day event aimed to involve as many disciplines as possible across the campus, according to Rennie. Among those involved were culinary arts students, anthropology students, the Actors Workshop Theatre, and visual arts students.
“It’s a chance to share the research, rather than just writing the papers or creating the work for a faculty member. Being able to talk about what they’re doing [and] why it’s important,” Rennie said.
Rennie said an undergraduate conference gives students the experience of presenting their research interests, summarizing their work in a short time frame and is great for students looking to apply to graduate school.
All events were free, primarily thanks to funding from the Research and Graduate Studies department at TRU.
A visiting student
J. Andrew Alexander, a biological sciences student from the University of the Fraser Valley, travelled from Abbotsford to Kamloops for the conference.
Alexander said his research in enrichment, isolation and identification of oil-degrading bacteria has a lot of possible real-world applications for a civilization that is heavily dependent on the oil industry.
After attending the rotating regional science exhibit at Trinity Western University last year, Alexander said he realized what a great opportunity it was.
“Often research is quite a solitary experience. It’s really nice when things are starting to wrap up to be able to talk to people about it, because you’ve worked so hard for sometimes a little over a year,” he said.
The experience of working with a professor
Andrew Park is an assistant professor at TRU in the computing sciences department and Senior Research Fellow at Institute for Canadian Urban Research Studies. Park was the supervising professor for two separate research projects at this year’s conference.
Sultan Alwehaibi, a fourth-year computing science student, researched patterns and trends in British Columbia court data and then graphed it to create information that can be visually analyzed. The data for the project came directly from Park’s own network, something that was made possible by the opportunity to work with a professor.
Park researched crime during his graduate studies at Simon Fraser University and was able to help students based off his own interests.
“What I see among our computing science students was that they something know the technology but they don’t know where they can apply [that knowledge],” Park said. “Why not use your skills and knowledge to help solve real world practical problems.”
Alwehaibi said the experience of the undergraduate conference has made him more confident about his idea and helped him show it to other students to inspire them to try it themselves.
A musical touch
A lot of hockey analysts talk about the momentum of a hockey game, but Steven Sadler, a fourth-year TRU physics student, wanted to know if there was some kind of music to the game.
Sadler used a device with sensors on a tripod to track the location of a hockey puck during a hockey game, including shots, passes, goals and whistles, each creating their own unique sound. He then plotted the movements on a graph.
He later applied a musical transformation by dividing the ice into three zones down the length of the ice, with five sections across the ice, to represent scales and notes.
“Using the location of a hockey puck we’ve made music out of a hockey game,” Sadler said. “The idea behind it was to see if we could find a flow to the game, if it even created a melody that was listenable.”
Listen to the audio that Sadler’s research produced:
“The melody, it actually sounds like a song,” Sadler said. “People aren’t expecting it. Every time they put the headphones on, they kind of get this smile and they giggle.”
The next step for the research is to place the created music on top of a video of the game for further analysis. Sadler will be graduating this year and the research will be passed on to another student.
Sadler said the idea, which he heard from his supervising professor, Mark Paetkau, came from the work NASA is doing to “songify” stars.
“It doesn’t sound super physic-y, but we do a lot of programming and circuitry,” Sadler said.
“It’s cool to share something you have been working on for an entire year with people who have never even heard of this before,” Sadler said. “It’s so fun to be here, seeing everyone. Everyone is super proud, they’ve worked so hard.”
TRU alumna Amber Wilson is a member of the Undergraduate Conference Research Group. She said one of the most valuable parts of the experience is sharing your research.
“Even if somebody thinks you’re totally wrong and completely disagrees with your conclusions and ideas, it’s the fact that you’ve had the experience to share that and to be confronted with the fact that they disagree. It’s a big confidence booster, especially when you can argue back because you’ve had experience with the research you have done.”
One of the best conference experiences Wilson had was when she presented a critical paper that she was initially to scared to present. She said that all students should “just do it.”
“It sort of gives you a glimpse as to what you can do with your undergraduate degree after,” Wilson said.
The presentation experience she gained at TRU made her more comfortable working alongside her professors at the graduate level, and she thinks it gave her an advantage over her classmates.