Spotlight on Student Research

Biology Students Showcase Excellence at Stander Symposium

The UD department of biology has a long history of outstanding participation in the annual Stander Symposium. The Symposium serves as a venue for students of all disciplines to present their individual and collaborative research projects, often worked on for longer than the academic year. It features a keynote speaker, poster sessions, performances, art exhibits, and oral presentations. Honoring the late Bro. Joseph W. Stander, S.M., Professor of Mathematics and Provost (1974–1989), the Stander Symposium fosters the Marianist tradition of community and gives students the opportunity to learn from each other.

"The best part of Stander is the opportunity to have students from every discipline under one roof presenting," said undergraduate Madison Irwin, a biology major. "There's so many different projects and it’s a great thing to have it all in one place."

All UD students are invited to attend the Stander Symposium as an "alternative day of learning." Non-participating students are encouraged to attend the symposium to appreciate and learn from the research of their peers. For students presenting posters, discussing their work with students of other disciplines is another learning experience.

"I think the best thing about it is the fact that it forces you to really know your data and be able to talk about it at an intelligent level with the faculty that come by and ask you about it, as well as undergrads," said biology graduate student Eric Camino. "Can you discuss it with people in your field as well as with people in other studies? Can you explain why it’s relevant? I think that science, when you really understand it, can be explained on both levels within your field and outside it."

UD biology students have a unique experience in their research projects because of the all-inclusive collaboration with faculty members in the lab and presenting their findings, often for the first time, at the symposium.

"The department has grown, and the number of students participating in Stander has grown," said Dr. Jayne Robinson, UD biology professor. "It's an integral part of our curriculum because it’s one thing for students to go in the lab and do the work, but science doesn’t help the world if it’s not communicated. Students have to learn how to communicate their work, and their ultimate goal is to publish it, but one of the first stages is to go and present it at Stander. Often these students go on from doing the Stander Symposium and go to regional, national, and international meetings where they present their work."

UD biology students also appreciate having Stander Symposium as a springboard for their research.

"Projects evolve," said graduate student Sumant Grover. "The big questions remain the same, but your findings change the way you think about them. It's a good platform for conceiving what you want to do at international conferences, it’s a growing basis of your research and a good firsthand experience."

Faculty members in the biology department encourage participation in the symposium. The research component of the presentation fosters collaboration between undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty.

"We want the students in the laboratory," said Dr. Karolyn Hansen, UD biology professor. "It’s such a rich experience to have those different levels of research in the laboratory. The advisor, the mentor, is the driver and the focus of the lab. The grad students come in and learn from the mentor and choose really challenging projects, and the undergrads come in and learn from the graduate students… we foster that at a very high level."

For UD alumni, the involvement in Stander Symposium projects as undergraduate students had lasting impacts for them.

"While working in Dr. Krane's laboratory [at UD as an undergraduate] I collaborated with current Notre Dame graduate student Connor Ratycz and current UD graduate student Kyle McGrail," said Mark Hawk '14, a graduate student at University of Notre Dame. “It was a great experience to bounce ideas off of one another as well as help each other with certain protocols. Working with both Kyle and Connor has inspired me to work in science and continue to develop collaborations with fellow students, which in turn forges robust friendships."

"The part I enjoyed most about research was reading the primary literature and other studies that were previously performed in my field to construct my own hypothesis and develop experiments," said Ratycz.

Experiencing the research process firsthand can affirm their career choice for some students, and teach skills that will be critical in future careers as scientists.

"Students grow in experience, gain knowledge about themselves in what their strengths and weaknesses are which helps them decide their career path…" said Hansen. "I'd like to think that this experience has helped to shape them in their careers."

For Hawk, the experience certainly proved invaluable.

"Stander was a stepping-stone in developing my scientific communication skills," Hawk said. "It has enabled me to explain scientific data at the highest of standards as well as develop the professional side of scientific poster presentations. Stander reaffirmed my career choice of science management due to the enjoyment I have when talking about science."

At the conclusion of the symposium, projects done by UD biology students all have one thing in common: overwhelming success!

"When they're finished with Stander walking back with their poster under their arm and a smile on their face saying 'I did it', it's an attainment of a goal and it drives them to want to do the next thing because they've proved that they can do this kind of work…" said Hansen. "It's the realization that they can accomplish a project, present it, and feel really good about it."

Photo, top of page: Biology faculty, and undergraduate and graduate student participants, at the University of Dayton's 2014 Brother Joseph W. Stander Symposium.

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