2019 COURI Spring Symposium Pushes Culture of Undergraduate Research Forward
Last Updated on April 19, 2019 at 12:00 AM
Originally published April 19, 2019
By Victor H. Arreola
Evelyn Tovanche, a senior biomedical sciences major in The University of Texas at El Paso's College of Science, said her research experience in the summer of 2018 was life changing.
Tovanche was among the dozens of UTEP students who publicly presented their research projects April 13 during the 2019 Campus Office of Undergraduate Research Initiatives (COURI) Spring Symposium. The projects showcasing art, philosophy, science and engineering research were on display in the lobby of the Undergraduate Learning Center.
“I was in Costa Rica for eight weeks. I actually lived with a host family for two months,” Tovanche said of her summer 2018 experience. “I really, really enjoyed it, especially being in a different environment where I was able to adapt. It was very rewarding.”
The ninth edition of the symposium featured more than 160 projects prepared by teams and individual students. Organizers said the level of participation is a testament to the growth of the culture of undergraduate research at UTEP.
“We’ve always had high-quality students and high-quality mentoring,” said Lourdes Echegoyen, Ph.D., COURI director. “But I think that undergraduate research here has grown so much that students are now helping each other along the way as they prepare for the symposia. “
It’s an example, Echegoyen said, of a culture that’s evolving in real time.
“Those students who have participated in the symposia before are actively helping those who are doing it for the first time, and you see the quality come through in their work. It’s impressive.”
COURI seeks to enrich the undergraduate experience of students by facilitating, enhancing and showcasing their research training. The goal of the office is to prepare students to become leaders in their fields of study.
One student who has taken advantage of these opportunities multiple times is Caleb Tullius, a senior music education major. This year, he presented a project that looked into the effects of the rules that govern the selection of music that can be played during musical competitions at public schools in Texas. His study of the University Interscholastic League’s Prescribed Music List (PML) uncovered several clearly defined trends.
Spring 2019 COURI Winners
Arts & Humanities
Best Poster Presentation: Raul Medellin (Mentor: Chris Reyman, Ph.D.)
Engineering, Computational and Applied Sciences
Best Poster Presentation: Ibrahim Salama (Mentor: Suman Sirimulla, Ph.D.)
Honorable Mention: Angelica Marquez (Mentor: Ming-Ying Leung, Ph.D.)
Best Poster Presentation: Georgina Diaz-Escandon (Mentor: Sukla Roychowdhury, Ph.D.)
Honorable Mentions: Seham Azzam (Mentor: Laura Diaz-Martinez, Ph.D.); Nina Beltran (Mentor: Katherine Serafine, Ph.D.)
Best Poster Presentation: Miranda Govea (Mentor: Diane Doser, Ph.D.)
Honorable Mention: Carlos Neira (Mentor: Juan Noveron, Ph.D.)
Best Poster Presentation: Rubi Gonzales (Mentor: Michael Zarate)
Honorable Mention: Lourdes Perez (Mentor: Eva Moya, Ph.D.)
“All the composers are of European descent; almost all of them are male,” Tullius said. “It’s sad, especially now that we’re in a much more progressive era of human history, that that’s not changing."
Tullius said the essential problem with this state of affairs is that, whether the effect is intended or not, the music in the PML has the power to shape curriculums and what’s perceived as “good” music in public school classrooms.
While this type of thought-provoking research was unquestionably the main focus at the 2019 Spring Symposium, the event also offered students a glimpse into the future. Graduate school recruiters from institutions like the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Michigan, the University of Notre Dame and the University of Pennsylvania were on hand, looking to entice many of UTEP’s most talented undergrads into joining their programs.
And like every COURI symposium, the 2019 Spring Symposium was also a competition.
But even for those students who did not earn a special recognition, the research experience offered by COURI always has the potential to be a significant milestone in their education.
“Go knock on every door that you can to have this opportunity because it’s amazing,” said Tovanche, the student who spent last summer in Costa Rica. “Not only do you get experience doing research, but it also opens a lot of doors, you get to meet a lot of people, and it really broadens the way you think.”To learn more about COURI, visit couri.utep.edu.