Showcase of brilliance

A parade of academically fueled research projects by students took center stage in the University Center and the University Green last Thursday for an exhibition that provides students opportunities to apply classroom experience to real world issues.

The 9th Annual Citizens Board Research and Creativity Forum (RCF) showcased a slice of the research that takes place across UM’s five campuses daily.

From a study scrutinizing child safety devices in automobiles and the level of parental responsibility to research on spinal reparations in rats that could ultimately contribute to a cure for spinal paralysis in humans, this program not only covered the gamut of knowledge but also tied in relevancy to issues in everyday society.

The Office of Graduate Studies sent out more than 3,000 invitations throughout the neighboring Coral Gables area inviting residents to come and observe the accomplishments of the students.

“This program has allowed our neighbors insight to what the University has to offer in research possibilities,” Jim Fatzinger, chief coordinator of RCF, said.

According to Fatzinger, in the last few years, the forum has taken off as a high student participatory event. The reason for that is the consolidation of the Graduate Student Association and the Undergraduate Inquiry Research connection.

“This, coupled with an increase in cooperate recognition, has caused an explosion in participation since 2002,” Fatzinger said. “This project is practically the best kept secret in town mainly because of the lack attention paid by other students.”

RCF was initially created to nurture students in preparation for future presentations.

Now the forum is open to both undergraduate and graduate students in all disciplines. Long, descriptive abstracts passed out at the entrance described projects based on original work, either published or unpublished.

During the forum, faculty judges evaluated projects on display and offered feedback.

In many cases these students used the forum to make a trial run to gain experience they will later use when representing UM at national conferences in their field. On Friday, an awards banquet was held for all of the participants.

“This is a definitely an opportunity for students and faculty to combine ideas and findings that are important today,” Fatzinger said.

According to Fatzinger, each first place winner will be awarded $100, which, in the end totals approximately $1,900. The winners had a wide range of projects, displaying the all-encompassing nature of the forum.

Among the winners were Seanna Cronin, who won the undergraduate Art category with an underwater photography display of South Florida and Australia. Jennifer Gilliam took first place in the undergraduate Sociology, Philosophy, Education and Communication category with her documentary on the West Grove.

The event showcased more than 200 active research initiatives in areas such as cancer research, diabetes research, paralysis, entrepreneurship, engineering, marine science, art and music.

“The projects you see here are the ones you will be reading about in the future,” Caroline Caperton, RCF project chairperson, said.

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