Research showcase spotlights student work in diverse disciplines

Research drives Washington State University Vancouver, but rarely are students afforded the opportunity to share their work with a wider audience. Last Thursday, the thirteenth annual research showcase aimed to recognize students for their efforts. The all-day event featured over 50 poster presentations and 17 podium presentations from students in a variety of disciplines.

Christine Portfors, interim associate vice chancellor of research and graduate education, moderated the event. Speaking directly to the students in the audience, Portfors said that the showcase was an opportunity “to highlight you.”

A body of 18 judges chose the winners from four categories divided by undergraduate and graduate student research and by poster and podium presentations. The top three winners in each category were awarded with both accolades and monetary prizes.

Levi van Tol won first place in the undergraduate podium presentations for his research into the efficacy rates of carpal tunnel restorative surgery. By testing the dexterity of patients through various hand exercises, van Tol was able to show that, while patients showed marked improvement, post-surgery physical therapy may be vital for complete and total recovery from carpal tunnel syndrome.

In the graduate podium presentations, Phillip Uribe won first place for his work in modeling the progression of noise-induced hearing loss.

Since human auditory cells are inaccessibly located within the head, Uribe relied on zebrafish whose similarly-structured cells are advantageously external.

Kaitlin Perkins won first place in the undergraduate poster presentations for her research into environmental effects on phytoplankton growth in Lacamas Lake. As foundational organisms in aquatic ecosystems, phytoplankton are extremely useful in determining the health of the lake. Perkins hopes her study can aid in better understanding how increased urbanization affects conditions in local bodies of water.

In the graduate poster presentations, Millicent Mbua won first place for her work in decreasing readmission to hospitals for patients with chronic illnesses. By introducing follow up procedures with patients after being released from the hospital and helping to train staff in these new protocols, Mbua found hospital readmission rates drop from 16% down to 9%.

Following the awards ceremony, a reception offering refreshments was held to allow students further chance to discuss their research with attendees and other students, as well as to celebrate their successful presentations.

Student Debika Finucane, who partook in the podium presentations, echoed the sentiment of all of the presenters saying, “I feel like this is a chance to be able to share with people something I’m really passionate about.” For Finucane, though, her project was especially personal. Her research illuminated the inadequate accessibility on campus for people of different abilities, something that directly affects her as a student.

Since it is never too early to start planning, students with questions or who are potentially interested in presenting for next year’s showcase may contact Christine Portfors through email at portfors@wsu.edu.

Photo Credit: Laura Dutelle

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