BME Research Expo Showcases Students’ Research Acumen
More than 60 undergraduate and graduate students presented their research posters at the 2023 Biomedical Engineering Research Expo.
“This year was probably the most robust and engaged participation we’ve had from students,” said Senior Academic Advisor Diana Wilson, who has helped plan and execute the event since it began with BME’s inception 11 years ago.
All presenters conduct research in faculty labs, and some are also Gore Scholars, who are paid a stipend by event sponsor W.L. Gore and Associates. Gore judges awarded prizes to seven undergraduate students or teams, while the graduate-level competition was judged by graduate students.
Wilson was glad to see several nontraditional students among the winners. Some came from backgrounds often underrepresented in engineering, while others have overcome academic difficulties.
“These are students who have maybe had to fight their way through a little harder. And now here they are standing out with their research and earning prizes,” she said. “It also serves as a validation for students that their work outside the classroom is meaningful and can help them toward future connections as much as work they do in the classroom.”
Building Knowledge and Confidence
Junior Marcus Cathey won Most Creative for his poster. He has worked in assistant professor Minkyu Kim’s lab since fall 2021. Cathey is helping to create an injectable hydrogel to treat atherosclerosis – a buildup of fats, cholesterol and other substances in and on the artery walls.
Presenting at the expo was a valuable experience, he said.
“It was a fantastic opportunity to showcase my contributions on my project and helped me gain more experience presenting more complicated concepts,” he said.
Cathey attributes his award to the novelty of his project and his presentation of the material.
“I did a good job highlighting that there are many possibilities with our protein polymer design,” he said.
One of the main goals of the expo is to give first-year students exposure to presentations like Cathey’s, as the BME department is geared toward getting undergraduates involved in research, said Wilson.
“They see, ‘Oh my gosh, here’s a sophomore and a junior presenting research. Wow, I could do that, too,’” she said.
Hector Flores and Isabellah Mayoral Ortega won the $100 first prize in the expo’s undergraduate category. The pair is developing a screening method for cognitive impairments, such as Alzheimer's disease, which uses Functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS) instead of MRI.
Flores transferred to the University of Arizona from Oregon State University. After settling in from the transfer, he said, he started to explore research opportunities, which hadn’t previously been on his mind. As a junior, he went to work in the lab of assistant professor Nima Toosizadeh.
“Since joining the team, I have had nothing but great experiences, and research has really broadened my opportunities,” said Flores, now a senior. “For any students on the fence about getting into research, just jump in and try it.”
BME Research Expo Award Winners
First place: Hector Flores and Isabellah Mayoral Ortega
Second place: Rhea Carlson
Third place: Darianne Sanchez
Fourth place: Taron Bashar
Fifth place: Ashley Moshkriz
Most creative: Marcus Cathey
Most promising: Dania Perez
First place: Kelsi Petrillo
Second place: Tucker Stuart
Third place: Sam Kim
Fourth place: Kimberly Doty
Fifth place: Kevin Kasper