Students present at Virginia research conference

Ten students from various biological disciplines and one faculty member (Dr. Sandra Troxell-Smith) from Oakland University’s chapter of the Scientific Research Honor Society Sigma Xi traveled to Alexandria, Virginia Nov. 3-6 to attend the International Forum on Research Excellence (IFoRe) powered by Sigma Xi.

This year’s conference was centered around “Science Convergence in an Inclusive and Diverse World.”

“Attendees [took part] in a variety of multi-track sessions which explored the strength of scientific research when diverse minds converge, as well as ideas that conquer the challenges of increasing equity and inclusion in the research community,” Sigma Xi‘s event description said.

The weekend was marked by student research presentations, sessions with leaders in various fields and receptions. Examples of talks given include “The Time is Now: A Critical Need for Diversifying the STEM Professoriate” by Lola Enola-Adefeso, PhD, “Why addressing racism in the academy will bring more impact, power, and quality of life to ALL of us” by Kelly Stevens, PhD and “Harnessing Synthetic Biology and Deep Learning to Fight Pathogens” by James Collins, PhD. 

Another very informative session was “Story Collider: Science Communication Through Personal Storytelling” by Edith Gonzales, PhD, who described her goals of making science accessible to the masses through bridging it with the humanities.

Each OU student competed in either an oral or poster presentation competition with students from across the country, describing their research in their respective fields ranging from biochemistry to eye research. OU came home with several award winners, listed below:

  • Javier Menéndez, graduate student, PI: Dr. Washington — Interdisciplinary Poster Award and Second Place Student Voting Poster Award
  • Cody Howe, graduate student, PI: Dr. Rhee — Best Overall Graduate Oral Presentation Award
  • Morgan Markel, graduate student, PI: Dr. Madlambayan — Graduate Interdisciplinary Poster Presentation Award in Microbiology and Molecular Biology
  • Yasmeen Hassan, undergraduate student, PI: Dr. Zhang — Interdisciplinary Oral Presentation Award in Biology and Biotechnology 
  • Siobhan Branfield, graduate student, PI: Dr. Washington — Graduate Interdisciplinary Poster Presentation Award in Physiology and Immunology

In addition to attending conference events, the group was able to get out to Washington, D.C. and see classic sites such as the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

“I had a great time learning about the research topics students from around the nation are studying, and a little bit about our nation’s history, too,” Esme Lowry, an undergraduate participant working in Dr. Wu’s biochemistry laboratory, said. 

Research conferences are an opportunity to learn how to properly prepare a scientific presentation and how to effectively communicate results with various audiences. They allow participants to hear from and have conversations with other members of the scientific community.

The next Sigma Xi Student Research Showcase, similar to this one, will be held in 2023 in Long Beach, California.

OU’s Sigma Xi Chapter inducts new members each year through nomination.