As their student-run team prepares to host the second annual Mid-Atlantic Undergraduate Research Conference (MAURC), students in the STEM Research Conference Commission are excited to see the new projects that are beginning to be submitted. 

“From particle physics to exercise oncology, we are seeing an incredible range of projects being submitted. We are so excited to bring these students together to collaborate and take their research to the next level,” said Abbie Weit, president of the SRCC.  

The 2020 conference, which is scheduled for March 28 and 29, is the followup event to the first annual Mid-Atlantic Undergraduate Research Conference, held last March. More than 120 undergraduates from 36 different universities and 13 states participated in the inaugural event.

One keynote speaker for the conference will be Arnold Caplan, acting director of the Skeletal Research Center at Case Western Reserve University. With over 400 publications in musculoskeletal and skin development, he is known as a pioneer in mesenchymal stem cell research.

Another keynote speaker will be Anthony Leggett, known as a world leader in low-temperature physics. Recipient of the 2003 Nobel Prize in physics, he has shaped the current theoretical understanding of superfluidity.

Laura Niklason will also deliver a keynote speech. Niklason is the founder of Humacyte, a regenerative medical technology company, and professor of anesthesiology and biomedical engineering at Yale University.

Daniel Andruczyk presented on his work in plasma physics at the 2019 conference, in addition to acting as a poster judge for undergraduate students presenting their work. Photo by Courtney Shifflet.

What started as an idea fostered by Ali Toloczko, then in her senior year at Virginia Tech, became a reality with the help of 11 other undergraduates on the SRCC. The SRCC was leading the effort to create an event in which STEM undergraduates from across the eastern United States could come together to learn from one another. As Virginia Tech students themselves, members of the SRCC were excited to share the conference opportunity with fellow Hokies and bring them together with students from other universities and colleges to share their passion for research.

Since the success of the inaugural event, the SRCC team has been working to improve the experience for participants. Keri Swaby, director for undergraduate research at Virginia Tech and faculty advisor for SRCC, is quick to point out their hard work has not gone unnoticed.

“Putting together a conference of this size and scope, with such a high level of quality programming, is impressive for anyone. Not only did this dedicated group of undergraduates identify the need to provide regional students with a professional presentation and networking opportunity, but they have also worked tirelessly to build relationships and develop thoughtful programming that will ensure the continued success of MAURC and value of the conference to attendees,” Swaby continued.

In the hope that an even larger population of participants can be included for this upcoming conference, the location of the conference has changed from VCOM to Goodwin Hall at Virginia Tech. In addition, SRCC is hoping to reach out to more out-of-state colleges and universities, as well as increasing the number of participants from Virginia Tech.

During the first conference in 2019, John Liams presented his journey with science and how he got involved in the investigation of environmental remote sensing and geospatial science. Photo by Courtney Shifflet.

The conference, which encourages collaboration between multiple disciplines, is strictly for undergraduate students. Keynote speakers, businesses, and corporations are invited to give participants additional opportunities to learn how to apply their knowledge to further endeavors, such as working in industry or academia, as well as continuing their professional education.

Much of the support needed to host the conference comes from educational grants and sponsorships from various university departments, including the Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM) and Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, and businesses involved in STEM.

The SRCC hopes to increase the amount of corporate involvement in the conference in order to secure more funding and provide participants with more networking opportunities.

“As we build an annual conference with a solid foundation for presenting undergraduate research in STEM areas, the SRCC team hopes students do more than learn about STEM opportunities; we hope they leave inspired and ready to make a difference in the world,” said Weit.

If you are an undergraduate STEM researcher and would like to present at the 2020 Mid-Atlantic Undergraduate Research Conference, submit your research to https://tinyurl.com/maurc2020application.

If you think your company would like to support the cultivation of innovative and transdisciplinary research, please reach out via email to Jenna Colturi, the SRCC director of sponsorship, for more information: jennac8@vt.edu.

To learn more about how to discover undergraduate research opportunities at Virginia Tech, please visit the website of the Office of Undergraduate Research.

- Written by Jenna Colturi