Students present at PLU research symposium

RHIANNON BERG; News Co-Editor; bergau@plu.edu

Pacific Lutheran University is not known as a top research university, but the Provost’s office organized this year’s first annual research symposium to showcase PLU student-faculty research, and students said they were grateful for the opportunity.

Associate Provost Jan Lewis said the symposium was created as a space for students to share their hard work with the PLU community.

“We’re really trying to find one place— one venue— where we can showcase and celebrate all of that work,” Lewis said.

The symposium consisted of about 60 presentations, 42 oral presentations by students in groups of three and 15 poster presentations throughout the Anderson University Center.

Junior Sophia Mahr presented her research on preventing unethical medical studies. She discussed the history of non-consensual medical studies on vulnerable populations and the importance of enforcing human study guidelines. Mahr researched the topic as the recipient of the Kurt Mayer Student Research Fellowship In Holocaust Studies.

“I was super lucky to have the opportunity to do this research and share it with an audience,” Mahr said. “It meant a lot to me because this topic means a lot to me. I think it’s great that PLU has so many opportunities.”

Mahr said she hopes that future symposiums will be better advertised and attended by the PLU community and that presenters will be able to see more presentations.    

“I hope in the future that the advertising of this cool thing reaches more people,” she said. “I would’ve loved to see everyone’s research. It was tough to decide between so many intriguing topics.”

Lewis said student-faculty research has been shown to help students become more involved with their discipline and build stronger relationships with potential mentors.

Junior Yasmire Haro encouraged other students to research topics that intrigue them and they want to learn more about, even if it’s not within their major. She presented on American soldiers who deserted during World War II and argued that drafted members of the military shouldn’t have been punished for desertion.

Lewis said the symposium is a way to draw attention to student-faculty partnerships and inspire other students by showing them some of the impressive things their peers are doing.

“It’s a way to communicate to first-year students and sophomores that this is a  possibility, and there’s lots of options across majors for [them] to do this,” Lewis said. “It’s a way to kind of promote it so more students are asking about it and seeking that experience out.”

Lewis said that faculty also  appreciate opportunities like these to see their students grow. “There’s nothing like watching a student go through a process, where you can see it from the beginning to the end,” Lewis said. “You see the lightbulbs go on and see the connections. That kind of process is very different from sitting in a class.”

Juniors Austin Beiermann, Miranda Martens and Tono Sablan presented on research that was funded by the PLU Diversity, Justice and Sustainability fund. The DJS fund is paid for by student fees and students can apply to receive funding for projects related to DJS.

The trio interviewed 30 racial justice advocates within the Puget Sound community and said they are currently working on analyzing their data and completing their research paper on racial justice activism and intersectionality. Beiermann said the DJS funding allowed them to improve their research by covering travel and food costs for interviewees and themselves.

“Something I think is important for research in relation to the DJS fund is that they specifically asked how we will take our research and share it with the PLU community and the communities that we interviewed,” he said. “That is something that is something that often gets lost when doing research, the “what now” part and the DJS fund helped [us] formulate the what now.”

More information about the event and abstracts of student’s research are available at plu.edu/research-symposium/. 

Students who are interested in participating in next year’s symposium are encouraged to seek research opportunities and talk with faculty members about available positions and internships. 🅼

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