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Undergraduate research takes centerstage at FLC
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Undergraduate research takes centerstage at FLC

Nearly 180 research projects students shared through live presentations, posters, and videos during the Spring Undergraduate Research Symposium.

DURANGO, Colo.— A first-year biochemistry student using a video to discuss how growing human lungs can help fight a pandemic. A Native American student developing a culturally informed, research-based program to lower the rate of drownings among Native American communities. An undergraduate student publishing his research findings in a peer-reviewed journal.

These were among nearly 180 research projects students shared through live presentations, posters, and videos during the Spring Undergraduate Research Symposium, which was held on April 25 and concluded with the Undergraduate Research Symposium & Awards Gala.

"Hands-on research happens daily at Fort Lewis College,” Provost Mario Martinez said. Undergraduate research is not something we do at Fort Lewis; it is what we do best at Fort Lewis College,” he added, quoting engineering professor Laurie Williams.

Undergraduate Poster presentations Undergraduate Research Coordinator Christine Smith said that while there has been progress in the number of women and people of color getting degrees in STEM, research has shown that persistence levels remain lower than their counterparts.

“We know mentor-mentee relationships are important, particularly for allowing students to persist in their fields of study. By facilitating research in classes, our faculty can transfer their passion and knowledge to our students. I think today is a wonderful example of that,” Smith said.

First-year student Madison Eckard and senior Mc Kenna Armstrong delivered the Ted-like talks. They were recipients of the Pay It Forward grant from the Intuitive Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Intuitive medical device company.

The grant provides stipends to students and their mentors to work on projects geared toward community and/or global health. Two critical components of the program include supporting mentor-mentee relationships and research communication.

Eckard said her passion for science came from a group of YouTubers who call themselves “Science Education Creators.”  

Undergraduate Research Gala presentation“The stimulating visuals, clear, scripted explanations, and digestible content left my curiosity constantly hungry for more. Inspired by those videos, I've prepared this talk, which is more of a performed YouTube video than a rigorous research presentation, but I'd like to believe it is the best of both worlds. So, with that context, I hope you enjoy learning how growing human lungs helps us fight pandemics,” said Eckard before diving into a lively presentation of how, by utilizing technology, vaccine trials and other drug testing could be accelerated, reducing the need for trials on animals and humans.

Mc Kenna Armstrong, a senior who graduated with a B.A. in Sociology and Human Services, said her research into increased drowning deaths among BIPOC people was inspired by her friends, who often would ask her to give them swim lessons for free. She said it turns out few, if any, new how to.

“It made me start thinking why?” said Armstrong. After researching how institutional racism and intergenerational trauma correlate to minority populations and how the lack of access and opportunity to swim lessons affect these rates, she applied and received grants to do something about it.

She developed the program “Waves of Equality: Swim Initiative and Community Health Impact,” which, in two sessions, had 24 participants ranging from 18 months to college age.

 “Swimming is a life skill everyone should have,” she said.

During the event, the 2024 Undergraduate Research Scholar Awards were recognized for their outstanding projects.

They include Matt Young, Sage Nelson, McKenna Armstrong, Sullivan Barnett, Jamie Ayze, Christopher Dantinne, Anna McCabe, Jack Demmert, Ellyse Fredericks, Finley Oursler, Megan Brand, Santiago Cadenas.

Visit FLC’s Undergraduate Research Page

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