The State Capitol rotunda was buzzing with undergraduate students from throughout the UW System – including six from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh – March 7.
Hundreds of students participated in the annual “Posters in the Rotunda,” a celebration of undergraduate student research, where they shared stories and presented their ideas and findings to Wisconsin legislators.
“Research isn’t really worth anything if no one sees it,” said Kimberly Barth, a junior studying computer science who proudly took her spot near her poster throughout the day Wednesday.
Barth’s research helped her create a tool to master programming concepts, she said.
Both State Rep. Gordon Hintz and State Sen. Jess King stopped by to interact with UW Oshkosh students.
“The senator was all about my project, which is so cool,” said Jennifer Kellerhuis, a senior studying athletic training, after King spent some time chatting with her.
Kellerhuis looked at sustainability in collegiate athletic training. She said being part of “Posters in the Rotunda” was a cool experience for her.
“To get out and there and talk about research and about UW Oshkosh is cool,” she said.
Faculty advisors and other student researchers agreed.
“We have a lot of students doing great research and this provides them with a forum to get the word out,” said Dan Schmidt, who served as a faculty adviser to the kinesiology and athletic training students who brought their research to Madison
Schmidt assisted Grant O’Connell, a senior studying kinesiology.
“I was the adviser, but he was really the driving force,” Schmidt said of O’Connell, who studied runners’ injuries. “Grant always goes the extra yard; he wants to know more, which lends itself to a good research project. You don’t get grades for this stuff; it’s all above and beyond.”
O’Connell said he believes participating in the research process was valuable for him and will help him in grad school, which is what he plans to do upon graduation from UW Oshkosh.
“If you want to go to grad school, I’d say undergraduate research is really important,” O’Connell said.
Plus, the process of doing research – coming up with an idea, making it happen and figuring out how to present the data – was what was eye-opening to most students, they said.
“Knowing how to do research gives you a lot of respect for the other research you see,” said Kellerhuis. “I kind of know the process now and I have a building block to work off of. I feel like I could apply what I learned to other research.”
Stephanie Spehar, a UW Oshkosh professor, anthropologist and adviser for student research, agreed. Spehar led Eric Fell to Borneo, where he eventually discovered a primate, the Miller’s Grizzled Langur, thought to be extinct.
“This kind of research says a lot about UW Oshkosh and the quality of education we offer,” Spehar said. “We’re doing something that matters. It’s taking what we are doing at UWO and bringing it to the public highlighting why education and the state system is so important.”
Spehar added: “As a faculty member, we are encouraged to include undergrads in our research. And we do. At UW Oshkosh, we do a good job of that. The skills they gain through research will serve our students in whatever they do. It’s a huge, valuable part of education.”
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