Undergraduate researchers celebrate at STEM Poster Palooza

The multidisciplinary poster session offered an opportunity for emerging researchers to develop their presentation and communication skills

Danielle Lacey 
Melanie Roberts, an undergraduate researcher with the Center for Engineering MechanoBiology, presents her poster to other STEM Poster Palooza attendees.
Melanie Roberts, an undergraduate researcher with the Center for Engineering MechanoBiology, presents her poster to other STEM Poster Palooza attendees.
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This summer, the McKelvey School of Engineering hosted nearly 70 undergraduate students who took part in research through research experience for undergraduates (REU) programs, the Washington University Summer Engineering Fellowship (WUSEF), and other sponsored research programs.

To celebrate their work, McKelvey Engineering hosted STEM Poster Palooza, a multidisciplinary poster and award presentation highlighting their research efforts. More than 40 students participated in the event, which included students from WUSEF; thermal management and computer science REUs; the cardiovascular research program; the Center for Engineering Mechanobiology (CEMB); and the International Student Research Internship program.

“REUs are designed to give students research experience, and presenting their work is an important part of their professional development,” said Sharniece Holland, lecturer and co-coordinator of WUSEF and the thermal management REU. “During STEM Poster Palooza, students get a chance to see what their peers worked on all summer, and it’s nice to have something to showcase their hard work.”

During the poster session, students presented their research to peers and faculty members, who also served as judges for the event. For some students, it was the first time they had presented research in such an environment.

“Presenting their research as a poster gives students a chance to practice both oral and visual technical communication skills,” said Janie Brennan, senior lecturer and co-coordinator of WUSEF and thermal management REU. “These skills will be essential no matter what kind of career they enter.”

Thomas Florian, a student in the computer science REU program, said he didn’t know what to expect from the experience but that he wasn’t nervous about presenting.

“I’ve spent 10 weeks doing my research, so I have a pretty good sense of it,” he said. “I think if I had prepared a script, I would have just stuttered, and it would have been worse.”

Karen Tarman, a rising junior at Washington University in St. Louis and a participant in the thermal management REU, agreed.

“This was definitely an experience,” Tarman said. “It made me realize how much I need to know off the top of my head instead of what I’ve researched and read in papers this summer.”

Caroline Carter, a student participating in the cardiovascular program (CardS), said she considers herself a “poster veteran” and also was excited by the event.

“I'm in the CardS program and haven't had a chance to meet many of the other REU participants,” she said. “It's nice to have the opportunity to do so, and I look forward to seeing everyone else’s work.”

During an award ceremony following the poster session, the event’s top presenters were recognized and awarded cash prizes. The winners were:

  • Top posters: Caroline Carter, cardiovascular program, “Bedside monitoring of spatially distributed cerebral oxygenation saturation with high-density diffuse optical tomography”; and Jabari Lawrence and Sydney Norstad, thermal management REU, “Acoustic levitation and evaporation of various liquids.”
  • Runner-ups: Beth Kleimenhagen, thermal management REU, “Evaluating a Nafion dryer for selective water vapor removal: Application for FTIR analysis”; and Varad Deouskar, International Student Research Internship program, “3-D model creation using variational implicit point set surface in VR.”
  • Honorable mentions: Victoria Fleming, thermal management REU, “Three-component composite phase changes materials for thermal regulation”; Melanie Roberts, Center for Engineering MechanoBiology, “Limited effect of in vivo pressure, axial stretch and viscosity in mass transport of murine ascending aorta”; and, Anis Chihoub, computer science REU, “Complex valued neural networks for MRI reconstruction.”

This year’s event marked the first time the poster session had been held since before the COVID-19 pandemic, and Holland and Brennan say they hope to continue the tradition in the future.

“As long as McKelvey School of Engineering is willing to support this event, we'd love to see it continue,” Brennan said. “It's a great way for all McKelvey Engineering student researchers to interact and get excellent professional development experience.”

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