The University of Texas at Austin
  • Research Week is more than lab coats and microscopes

    Published: March 26, 2010

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    For Sarah Miracle, an architecture undergraduate student, a full course load inhibited her from taking classes in the Textiles and Apparel Technology department. However, Miracle didn’t let her busy class schedule prevent her from doing hands-on materials research with Materials Lab Curator Zaneta Hong.

    “I feel it’s important for designers to research how materials, objects and buildings are made through a hands-on approach,” Miracle said. “Research by doing provides a thorough understanding of a subject and allows a person to draw connections across disciplines.”

    Miracle will show a collection of woven and three-dimensional textiles at Research Week 2010. Her project explores how different fibers and weaves interact with each other, and how traditional methodologies may be altered to create unexpected forms. Hong encouraged Miracle to participate in Research Week, and though she didn’t attend last year, Miracle said, “I’ve heard wonderful things about it and am anxious to see what other students bring to the event.”

    Research Week is an annual campus-wide event organized by the Office of Undergraduate Research and the Senate of College Councils. The week-long event takes place April 12-16 this year.

    Many student organizations, departments and centers for research host independent events and participate in the Longhorn Research Bazaar. While many students imagine white lab coats and microscopes when thinking about research, the planning team for Research Week 2010 wants students to know research can take many forms, not all of which involve a lab. Presenters at this year’s Longhorn Research Bazaar, which will be held April 14 in Gregory Courtyard, will represent all colleges and schools.

    By working with students from a variety of departments, Undergraduate Research Coordinator Lynda Gonzales hopes to expand Longhorns’ definition of research.

    “Research can happen in any discipline and in any setting — a laboratory, a studio, outdoors,” Gonzales said. “Our goal is to show students that if they’re interested in learning about a topic or field of study, they can turn that interest into an undergraduate research project.”

    One way to sample the wide array of research options is at the Longhorn Research Bazaar, an outdoor fair where units from across campus highlight their research activities and opportunities for student involvement. The Bazaar also provides undergraduate student researchers a forum to present their projects and allows Longhorns interested in pursuing research with an opportunity to meet peers who’ve already found a faculty mentor and project.

    Research Week 2009 presenter Timmy Huynh said that researching and exploring topics through a variety of disciplines helped him develop his own “sense of academic self.” During summer 2009, Huynh worked comparing various demographic characteristics of the deaf population with those of the non-deaf population through the Population Research Center, and presented the research during last year’s event.

    His route to research was not typical: he explored many facets of social science, including economics and sociology, before focusing on anthropology. When asked why he continues to pursue undergraduate research, Huynh said, “Because I was somehow put in a position to do research in only my third year at UT, it definitely very easily opened the door for the research opportunities I’m taking advantage of.”

    “I determined that I enjoyed presenting a poster because, as opposed to a presentation, people who were actually interested in my research would come look and approach me,” Huynh said. “I actually met some really amazing people from different parts of the university.”

    Learn more about Research Week 2010 online, or contact the Office of Undergraduate Research at 512-471-5949 or uresearch@austin.utexas.edu.

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