Research Days participation jumps more than 30 percent in past five years

Keith Crandall, a faculty mentor to students who presented at Research Days, said other presenters’ projects will encourage students to conduct research.

Media Credit: File Photo by Connor Witschonke | Staff Photographer

Keith Crandall, a faculty mentor to students who presented at Research Days, said other presenters’ projects will encourage students to conduct research.

Participation in an annual University-wide research showcase has increased by about 35 percent in the past five years, officials said.

This spring, more than 625 undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students presented research projects at Research Days, compared to more than 450 participants in 2015, officials said. Presenters and faculty said increased participation indicates that GW is encouraging students to conduct cross-disciplinary research amid an overall push to prioritize research endeavors.

“It is exciting to hear from students what they have been discovering and to feel the energy in the room,” Vice President for Research Robert Miller said in an email. “We could not be more excited about the continued growth in Research Days.”

Miller said the number of presenters at the event has increased in every research category over the past five years. This year, about 350 students presented research on health and medicine, and nearly 150 presenters shared projects on natural sciences and mathematics, social sciences and engineering, he said.

Miller added that in 2019, a record-high number of participants presented research on engineering, biomedical engineering, business and the humanities.

“We are happy to see the wide variety of research areas from our students,” Miller said.

At a Faculty Senate meeting earlier this month, Provost Forrest Maltzman said Research Days may relocate from the Marvin Center to the Smith Center to accommodate more participants.

“We also had a very successful Research Days, so we expanded beyond the ballrooms, into the hallway, down to the ground floor of the Marvin Center – the president and I have spent a fair amount of time there,” Maltzman said at the meeting. “It is exactly what this University is about. We’re working on a plan to really turbocharge those even more.”

Faculty who mentored students’ research projects said the increased participation allows students to view more projects, which could strengthen students’ research skills, encourage cross-disciplinary collaboration and inform future methodology.

Keith Crandall, a professor of biology and faculty mentor to students presenting at Research Days, said other presenters’ projects will inspire students to consider new methods in their own study areas.

“You pick up insights from folks because people are always using things in slightly different ways that you haven’t necessarily thought about,” Crandall said. “You come back to the lab with some new ideas about how you might be doing some of your analyses.”

Arzhang Angoshtari, an assistant professor of engineering and applied science and a faculty mentor for Research Days, said increased participation expands the number of disciplines represented at the conference.

“I think it will help a lot if people know what is going on in different labs or different departments for collaboration purposes,” Angoshtari said.

Research Days presenters said University President Thomas LeBlanc’s strategic mission to boost undergraduate research at GW might have led to an increase in participation.

Alumna Lisa Blitstein, a former Hatchet photo editor and a communications major who presented research on human interaction in Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice,” said LeBlanc’s emphasis on expanding research efforts prompts professors to rally more students to present at Research Days.

Part of LeBlanc’s strategic mission to enhance research at GW focuses on providing students with more opportunities to conduct research with faculty members. Leo Chalupa, the former vice president for research, created Research Days to encourage more undergraduates to participate in research efforts at the University.

“His mission to promote research might make more professors and faculty think about how I can get my students to present and explore their research opportunity,” Blitstein said.

Senior Stephanie Reda, a psychology major who presented research on marijuana legalization, said she decided to present at Research Days after one of her professors encouraged her to participate. Reda said students will gain a “comprehensive” understanding of how research is conducted if they participate in Research Days, which prepares students for future careers in research-related fields.

“I think that it’s a great thing that more students are going to be involved in this because it’s a great opportunity that GW has,” she said.

Lia DeGroot, Eddy Duan, Gracie Jamison and Ed Prestera contributed reporting.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.