Undergrad Researchers Shine in Poster Competition

Two Students Tie for Top Prize in Second Annual Showcase of Achievement

May 7, 2009

Now in its second year, the annual Undergraduate Research Grant Poster Competition has proved to be both a stimulating venue to discuss research and a cordial, if contested platform, for elbow space among top undergraduate researchers at UT Dallas.

Undergraduate Research Grants offer $500 to students and $300 to faculty mentors to encourage a wellspring of bench science sparked by the curiosity and capability of undergraduates.

“These competitively funded projects result in posters that the students create to highlight the results and progress of their research,” said Dr. Bruce Gnade, vice president for research.  “Quality undergraduate research is an important and exciting part of our overall research portfolio.”

Two students tied for the top prize. The winning students, their projects and their mentors were as follows:

  • First place (tie): Felicity Lenes, “Vaccines: Targeting Herd Immunity,” Dr. Todd Sandler (EPPS) and Dr. Juan González (NS&M).
  • First place (tie): Austin Swafford, “The Use of Functionalized Double-Walled Carbon Nanotubes (DWNTs) for the Thermal Ablation of Cells,” Dr. Rockford Draper (NS&M).
  • Third Place: Alex Palmer, “Search for Charmed Baryonia in Reaction: e⁺ e⁻ → γ ISR Λ⁺cΛ⁻c,” Dr. Joseph Izen (NS&M).

“Presenters probably talked to 50 people,” said Felicity Lenes, a senior molecular biology major who tied for first place.  “These presentations are a great chance for undergraduates at UT Dallas to show what we can do as we embark on undergraduate research.  It’s a reflection of the culture at UT Dallas.  This presentation is especially helpful as we look ahead toward graduate school.”

In 2008, 21 students were awarded Undergraduate Research Grants.  This year, 45 students received grants, making the competition for top prize at the poster session even more difficult.

“It was really interesting to watch the poster competition,” said Austin Swafford, a senior molecular biology major, recipient of the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and a recent winner of the Oxford-Cambridge Scholars award.  “The posters were on display from a variety of disciplines—from engineering to biology—showcasing interaction across fields among highly capable people.”

Swafford tied with Lenes for the top prize.

Dr. Austin Cunningham, dean of graduate studies and professor of physics, congratulated the three poster competition winners by nominating Lenes, Swafford, and Palmer for membership in Sigma Xi, the international, multidisciplinary research society.  Cunningham invited the three winners to present their posters at the Sigma Xi annual meeting in Houston later this fall.

“The poster presentation is a wonderful celebration of the research accomplishments of all the presenters,” Cunningham said.  “You should be very proud in being recognized for your outstanding work.”

The poster awards carried a cash prize of $500 each for the tied first place winners and $100 for the third place prize.

“It feels great to have the opportunity to conduct real research as an undergraduate,” said Alex Palmer, a senior physics major who placed third.  “I have no doubt that research experience, especially when publicly recognized, will help me achieve my long term academic, professional and personal goals. I believe that the increased participation in the competition this year also reflects very well on UT Dallas. The availability of undergraduate research positions is always the first thing I mention when recommending the university to prospective students.”


Media Contacts: Brandon V. Webb, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, Brandon.webb@utdallas.edu
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu

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Above: Felicity Lenes, molecular biology senior, called the contest good preparation for grad school. She tied for first place with molecular biology senior Austin Swafford (at right).

Austin Swafford
Below: Alex Palmer, a senior physics major, placed third. 

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