GPSS conference allows students to present research

Hannah Williams

The Graduate and Professional Student Senate held their first annual research conference April 4 to bring students together to share their professional research.

Zachary Zenko, graduate student in kinesiology and co-chair of the GPSS research conference, said the conference was held “to provide a platform for graduate and professional students to share their research with an educated but non specialist audience.”

The senate started planning the event March 10, 2013, more than a year before the first conference.

Vivek Lawana, graduate student in chemical toxicology and co-chair of the conference said the idea of the research conference started out rough, but with the support of the graduate college and department deans they moved forward with the project.

The co-chairs said because they were holding this event for the first time, they were not sure which direction to take, so they looked to other universities, such as the University of Iowa and Kansas State University, for guidance. The main goal had always been to showcase the graduate and professional students research.

“The whole goal was to be able to explain your work to somebody who is educated but not from your field,” Lawana said.

To be able to explain research is a skill and this conference provided some practice in doing so, Lawana and Zenko said. It is also important to understand what other students in other departments are doing on campus to help foster collaboration.

The two said even though the conference was held for graduate and professional students, undergraduate students could benefit from the experience, as well. They had a panel for undergraduates to interact with graduate students in order to help them learn more about graduate student life.

“Exposure to research, especially as an undergrad is exactly the reason I went to graduate school, and it may change their outlook and may let them become aware to what is available on campus,” Zenko said.

During the conference there were many opportunities for students to display and get feed back on their work. There were poster presentations that conference attendees voted on and the top six posters were chosen.

There were also twelve sessions of oral presentations; each session had four presenters and three judges. For each session a best in session was chosen and then of those people a top three were chosen. Some of the winners were awarded scholarships.

The keynote speaker of the conference, Dr. Stephen Gilbert spoke at the conference about how it is important for students to know about their peers’ research because it will aid departments in working closer together.

“When we introduced this idea first time to the senate they thought that it’s never going to happen. It’s just a kind of futuristic project,” Lawana said. “Now since on the ground and it has all happened and people got the awards and everything, I think they will be excited when it comes back.”

GPSS plans to have another research conference next year, and it is already in the budget for next year.

The co-chairs said that this year they were actually quite efficient with their funds so they know where to put their resources next year to make the experience even better.