Portland State hosts second annual Student Research Symposium

Starting at 9 a.m. ending around 5 p.m. on May 7, the third floor of Smith Memorial Student Union was overflowing with the latest research and projects lead by Portland State students. The Student Research Symposium was an opportunity for students to present their research, both in the form of oral presentations and detailed posters and displays.

“The event is organized by the Office of Graduate Studies, Research and Strategic Partnerships, the Honors College, the McNair Scholars Program and the local chapter of Sigma Xi,” said Margaret Everett, dean of Graduate Studies at PSU. “We had over 140 students—graduate and undergraduate—from across the university present their research in poster and panel presentation.”

The oral presentations were divided into three sessions, with various panels happening during different sessions.

The early risers kicked the day off with presentations at 9 a.m. The panels presenting in this time slot included social work and social issues, governance and public works, literary studies, international affairs, environmental studies and communications.

Amongst these early panels were presentations on military sexual trauma, civic participation among Mexican immigrants, female drudgery and the homosexual utopia, when hate hijacks religion and more. There were 24 presentations total in the first session.

Next on the agenda was the poster segment of the symposium. For this, students presented their research projects on large posters and were on hand to answer questions.

Jessica Carroll, a junior Environmental Studies major, presented her project on a small, egg-like sensor that was designed to be manufactured in large numbers and placed all around the world to measure nitrogen dioxide levels in the air.

NO2 is quite a significant problem. It’s formed mostly from vehicle exhaust and can react with the air to form a corrosive nitric acid. It also creates ground-level ozone, also known as smog.

“The Air Quality Egg is great because it allows people to gauge NO2 levels in their home area,” Carroll said. In the lab and during their research, they found that problems they were having “with the Air Quality Egg could be caused because of an outdated sensor and its sensitivity to humidity, or the fact that NO2 may be getting in but not getting out.”

Rita Yelverton and Elizabeth Tremaine, two graduate students at PSU, presented their research on the motivational gap that exists in children entering preschool and kindergarten. They looked specifically between boys and girls, and children with and without mothers with associate degrees.

“Boys have a lower motivation than girls in preschool, and maternal education predicted motivation in preschool and kindergarten,” Tremaine said.

Yelverton added that this is a problem because “this motivational gap is a precursor to academic success later on.”

“This gap can be reduced in a supportive and highly warm school environment. Under these conditions males caught up to females,” Tremaine said. “For those with high maternal education, males and females revert to the standard gap in the absence of supportive classes.”

Michal Podhradsky, a first year doctoral student at PSU, is developing a unmanned aerial vehicle that “is inspired by bees, mimicking their wing motion.”

Podhradsky is studying electrical engineering and is in the early stages of developing his bee robot.

“[Mimicking a bee] would make it agile and versatile, and could be used for measuring radiation levels, detecting toxic materials, mapping of dangerous locations or even artificial plant pollination,” Podhradsky said.

Podhradsky hopes to make his device fully autonomous and auto-correcting, so if it damages its wing or something unexpected happens, it can self-correct and continue the job.

Two more panel presentation sessions took place in the afternoon. Rounding out the event were panels on applied linguistics, engineering, social theory, nano materials, political science and gender studies.

Within these sessions, attendants of the symposium learned about everything from bicyclists’ breathing in traffic-related air pollution to Karl Marx’s dissertation.

Taylor Bradberry, a sophomore communications major at PSU, gave a passionate speech about the death penalty. During the presentation, Bradberry asked questions like, “why does the United States, a human rights leader in the world, implement such an injustice?” and “can the government be trusted to kill only bad people?”

Concluding the whole event were presentations on topics like defining the Russian public sphere, and living well with terminal illness.

Everett said they would like to grow the research symposium in the future.

“It’s a great way for students to get experience presenting their research, and for the university and broader community to get a chance to see the fantastic contribution our students make to research,” she said.