Students see worth of study by sharing with others

Students may sometimes see scientific research as boring. Some students, however, are doing work which could eventually provide a remedy for cancer.

Six students traveled to Little Rock, Ark. for an opportunity to present research which they have worked on for at least a year.

The Feb. 15 event was the first Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics poster presentation for the state of Arkansas. Posters were set up in the rotunda of the capitol building.

While there, the students were able to talk about their research projects to people including state senators and representatives. The University’s participation was facilitated in part by Brent Swearingen, coordinator of undergraduate scholarship.

Swearingen said one especially exciting part of the event happened to seniors Rebekah Henderson and Suyen Espinoza.

Their project, entitled “Right-handed and left-handed: A reaction in stereo,” is one step in a process of an attempt to develop cells that can inhibit the growth of cancer. Espinoza said she and Henderson have been working on it for a year and a half.

Espinoza said one of the people who came to look at their poster pointed out one of the names in the reference list as his own. He was a professor from the University of Arkansas who had started the research project that Espinoza and Henderson were working on.

He read every detail of their poster and said they were doing a great job, Espinoza said. It was a little intimidating talking to him about their project, she added, because she realized that “he really knows this stuff!” He was able to tell the women what they needed to do to finish their research.

She added that being able to present their results to other people helped her to see that all of those hours in the lab were well worth it.

Swearingen said other states have had similar events, modeled on a presentation that takes place at the Capitol in D.C. This was Arkansas’ first year to hold such an event.

According to the presentation’s brochure, 80 students from 13 Arkansas colleges and universities participated.

The day was a great opportunity for the University’s students to present their work to people and to see what type of research other students are doing, Swearingen said.

“It is good for our University to communicate with elected officials and be able to demonstrate the research our students have done,” he said. “It also gives us a chance to show that we care about the ‘hand’ part of our motto, not just the ‘head’ part in the classroom.”

Swearingen said his wife Carla Swearingen, associate professor of chemistry, helped choose who would go. She asked the science faculty to nominate students, who then submitted abstracts.

He added that each school was guaranteed three slots at the presentation. The University submitted four projects, and all four were accepted by the event’s organizers.

Swearingen said he was proud of all of the students’ hard work. The event was definitely a success, with potential for growth, he added. He hopes that in the future the organizers will open it up to other fields as well.