Annual fall symposium showcases undergraduate research

The Southern Utah University Walter Maxwell Gibson College of Natural Sciences Research Symposium was held Wednesday, Nov. 8, in the Hunter Alumni Center. SUU students presented their research projects to faculty, staff, community members and fellow students.

Kevin Welch, a research toxicologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s poisonous plant research laboratory in Logan, Utah, was the keynote speaker for the conference. Welch presented an overview of the work he does for the USDA, including fieldwork collecting plant specimens, examining various plant-based toxins and their effect on animals and investigating cases where livestock are suspected to have been killed by a toxic plant. 

After Welch’s presentation, attendees of the symposium were free to explore the student research spread throughout the center. Students presented their research either as 15-minute oral presentations in various rooms of the center’s lower floor or as posters in the Great Hall and Whiting Room on the second level. 

From Montana microfossils to the astrometric measurements of binary star systems, the research topics at the conference were varied and creative. Morgan Whitaker, a chemistry major who investigated a catalytic reaction, explained that he came up with his topic by simply asking professor Matthew Prater if there was any research he could participate in.

“I enjoy research; it’s what I want to do in the future,” Whitaker said. “Hopefully, I’m going to go to grad school and then be able to work in a lab full-time doing research like this.”

Research at the undergraduate level allows for a more in-depth experience of students’ chosen field early in their academic careers. It provides them with some experience of what working in that field can actually be like and how to present their work to an audience that may not be familiar with that topic.

Any student is welcome to apply for the symposium. The first step is to meet with a professor to identify and conduct research, and then apply at the college’s website to present.


Story: Jacob Horne
Photos: Chloe Copeland
Editor: Chevy Blackburn