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The second annual CSULB BUILD Summer Symposium, featuring the poster presentations of the program’s Scholars – 45 newly admitted and 19 continuing from last year – was bigger than last year – and just as successful. On July 29, 64 Scholars presented their research to more than 250 friends, family, campus administrators, faculty mentors, staff and fellow BUILD trainees, gaining valuable experience in communicating about science to colleagues and lay people alike.
“It was a new experience to be able to share the research I have been working on with those that came to see my poster,” said Maria Barajas, a first-year Scholar. “It is important to inform others about the sciences and research – not only to our families but to the larger community. I did feel a bit nervous because this was my first presentation, but it was a great opportunity to share the results of my research question. I am looking forward to many more presentations!”
“The summer symposium reminded me of my passion for research,” said Vivianna Goh, another first-year Scholar. “This is the third research symposium I’ve participated in at CSULB, so I thought I wouldn’t be as excited. Instead, I felt happier than ever to present my research again. Because I was more comfortable presenting, I got to enjoy the experience even more.”
For the newly admitted Scholars, the Symposium serves as a welcoming into the CSULB BUILD program. It is also the culmination of eight weeks of intensive summer training at California State University, Long Beach. The Summer Undergraduate Research Gateway to Excellence (SURGE) involved participation in six hours of weekly Learning Community seminar, as well as working full-time with their BUILD Research Mentors on supervised research projects. The Symposium empowers the Scholars to show off what they’ve accomplished in those eight weeks of research and training.
CSULB BUILD graduate assistant Hugo Sanchez said, “The Symposium was a great experience for the undergraduate students to get their foot in the door in terms of presenting their research. They will go on to present research posters at other conferences and the Symposium allows them to practice in a more casual, stress-free environment.”
Part of the training Scholars received during the Learning Community was how to prepare and present a research poster. They were walked through the process and had the opportunity to rehearse their presentation. In anticipation of the need to present to both scholarly and lay audiences, Scholars practiced giving short “elevator” talks aimed at both types of listeners.
“What I liked best (about the Symposium)," said Daniel Shultz, another BUILD graduate assistant, “was seeing how excited the students were about what they have been researching. They seemed eager to share and had a genuine interest in their fields.”
The Symposium opened with welcoming remarks from Dr. Laura Kingsford (in English) and Dr. Guido Urizar (in both English and Spanish), CSULB BUILD Principal Investigators. Dr. Paul Buonora, Director of the Research Enrichment Core, MC’d keeping the flow of the presentations. Dr. Chi-Ah Chun, Director of the Student Training Core, shared what the BUILD program was about, what the Scholars had been doing over the summer, and what parents could expect their children to be doing over the course of their time in BUILD.
CSULB President Jane Close Conoley welcomed everyone to the symposium with a speech about the importance of the program in helping students build a research career, eventually bettering quality of life of all people in our country.
Each speaker mentioned the importance of community support in the success of Scholars. Having a support structure comprised of friends and family is a key factor in Scholars not only completing the BUILD program but moving on to earn their PhDs and becoming successful researchers.
Friends and family are invited to the Summer Symposium each year to help new inductees celebrate their participation in the BUILD program, and to help them understand what this participation means for their BUILD trainee. Research literature about people attempting to develop a career in research emphasizes the importance of family buy-in and support, especially for underrepresented minority students.
Several friends and family of the Scholars shared their support in the guestbook. Comments included:
One parent was heard to say, “We’re really proud. I always knew she was going to be doing great things. She’s doing it now with BUILD.”
After the formal presentations in the lecture hall, everyone had the opportunity to see the poster presentations of the Scholars. “My dad and friend came to support me,” said Goh. “Their presence was so important because it was the first time I had friends and family come to a symposium. I think they were impressed by all the different types of research, and surprised at how much work the BUILD students had done. My dad said he was so glad he came.”
“It was exciting to listen to students talking about their research,” said Preethi Panyam, a CSULB BUILD graduate assistant, “and to interact with the family members of BUILD students. The event felt festive, even though it was academically oriented.”
Not only did Barajas’ uncles come to see her presentation, she said, “but they went to others to see the variety of research presented. They were happy to see the range of research presented and even said that the program and introduction were very well organized. More programs like ours are needed, specifically, because there are many problems to be solved in the real world.”
The Symposia hosted by CSULB BUILD are an important part of the program. They not only give the Scholars opportunities to practice real skills they will use during their research career, but also help them connect with the broader community and their fellow Scholars. Barajas said her favorite part of the symposium was the diversity of disciplines represented. It “gave us more room to get to know each other, since we may not interact with other disciplines normally outside of our scope.”
“Every student had a unique perspective on how they tackled some of the research gaps in the biomedical and health science fields,” said Sheena Cruz, another BUILD graduate assistant. “It was a joy to hear students explain their research results and what they hoped to accomplish this coming year.”
“I always feel so energized learning about my peers’ research,” said Goh. “I love watching projects transform from rough draft to the final poster – my favorite part of the Symposium is seeing everyone present! Listening to my peers discuss their research made me so proud.”