CEWiT’s Fourth Annual Women’s Poster Competition a Success

By Ellen Glover

Monday, April 24, 2017

CEWiT recently hosted its fourth annual Women’s Research Poster Competition on Friday, April 14. This year, the poster contest had 58 entries – 21 graduate and 37 undergraduate, 28 of theundergraduate students were CEWiT REU-W scholars Participants represented more than 30 different majors from across campus, not just STEM fields.

Many of the participants were part of CEWiT’s Emerging Scholars Research Experiences for Undergraduate Women (REU-W) program. This program, which lasts for the duration of the school year, pairs sophomore and first year women interested in research with faculty mentors to assist in one of their projects in an effort to expose students, early-on, to the possibilities of research. At the end of the spring semester, the students present the work they’ve done so far to the public and their peers along with other participants at the annual poster contest.

“A component ofconducting research is to learn how to present and talk about the work you have been doing,” says Michelle Bartley-Taylor, the Assistant Director of Student Engagement at CEWiT. “This event is open to campus so we can showcase the students and their work. It’s also a learning opportunity for all participants and visitors to see the other posters and see what the other students are doing.”

Each research project is extremely different from the next. Walking around the Frangipani Room in the Memorial Union, weaving through guests and students, there were dozens of very different topics, all organized into five different areas of research: “Life Sciences,” “Health and Behavioral Sciences,” “Technology and Computing,” “Social Sciences” and “Physical Science and Mathematical Sciences.” Titles ranged from “Epitope Mapping Using Covalent Labeling and Mass Spectrometry,” to “Autism and Pediatric Speech Therapy.”

Although each of the projects were very different, the students are proud of the work they have accomplished thus far and have enjoyed the experience this research program has giventhem.

“This is a great bridge to connect me to the program and help me with my career goals,” says Sofia Espada, a sophomore majoring in biotechnology. “I’ve had a great time presenting. During the semester, I have been working a lot in isolation so it is cool to see that people are interested in the work that I am doing.”

For her project, Espada teamed up with Professor Farrah Bashey-Visser in the Biology Department to look at how competitive interactions affect the evolution and pattern of diversity in species, specifically ethno pathogenic nematodes. The researchers looked at 5 different nematodes and 3 forms of bacteria and found that there was more diversity in one site due to it being older.

The upshot, Espada says, is to “improve how we measure biodiversity.” The research also aims to create species-specific primers to better identify species more quickly.

Espada and her fellow presenters needed to do more than just present their research to people who passed by their booth, though, they were also evaluated by judges. Each poster was assigned three adjudicators who had to grade their work based on a set rubric that assessed the research content, its significance, their poster’s clarity and organization and their oral presentation. Most of the judges were CEWiT affiliates and IU professors, and some were from industry.

Roxanne Bajo, an IU alum and a fourth-grade teacher, came all the way from Chicago to be one of the judges in the Technology and Computing section of the competition.

“I came here primarily to give back to the university,” says Bajo. “I chose computing because, in my work, I’m heavily involved with computers. My students use computers and technology every day. Bajo enjoyed all of the presentations she was assigned to, and felt her experience as a judge gave her a better idea of where the tech industry, specifically computing, might be taking their research in the future.

“I wanted to see the direction we’re heading, not just for women, but for all tech research,” says Bajo. “That way, I can gauge what I do in the classroom.”

“I like to see how nervous they get before the competition,” says Bartley-Taylor of all the students. “And then, in the end, they are so much more confident in presenting their work. Throughout the semester, most of these projects have been done in isolation, so it might be easy for the students to think that their work doesn’t matter, or that no one cares. This event shows how important this work is. I think that brings a lot of pride for them.”

2017 CEWiT Women's Research Poster Competition Winners

The winners of the poster contest are pictured above with CEWiT staff.  Pictured from left to right are Michelle Bartley-Taylor, CEWiT's Assistant Director for Student Engagement, Lindsey Kitchell--Graduate winner in the Life Sciences category, Reyan Coskun--Undergraduate winner in the Life Sciences category, Karly Beavers, Graduate winner in the Social Sciences category, Daisy Rosa Vargas, Graduate Winner in the Physical & Mathematical Sciences, Kaytlin Acton--Undergraduate winner in the Social Sciences category, Marisa Monetti--Undergraduate winner in the Technology & Computing category, Ashley Nguyen--Undergraduate winner in the Physical & Mathematical Sciences category, Haleigh Gilliland--Undergraduate winner in the Health & Behavioral Sciences category, and Sanchari Das, Graduate winner in the Technology & Computing category.Each victor received $100 in their Bursar account and a CEWiT swag-bag.