Undergraduate Research Inspires the Next Wave of Scientists

North Willamette Research and Extension Center in Aurora, Oregon. Low tunnel strawberry experiment from Javier Fernandez-Salvador. Later growing seasons.

OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences held an Undergraduate Research Showcase on Thursday, Oct. 29th. This year, the event was held virtually with students presenting posters and videos of their research online using the collaborative educational tool, Canvas. Most of the students were also available via Zoom, where they were able to answer questions from virtual visitors and further explain their research and unique experiences.

This cohort of undergraduate researchers certainly had a unique experience during this pandemic. Each student and their mentor had to adjust how they would approach their research project, often when across the state from each other. The Undergraduate Research program (funded by the E.R. Jackman Friends and Alumni) offers three different experiences: Beginning Researchers, Continuing Researchers, and Branch Experiment Station Researchers.

Every student’s experience was different, but one thing was common: each one thoroughly enjoyed the process and would recommend it to their peers.

“It rules, I learned more doing field and research work than I have from being in a classroom,” said Phillip Treisman.

This was his second time participating in this program and he has fallen in love with doing the research. He was also very appreciative of the mentorship he has received from Javier Fernandez-Salvador at the North Willamette Research and Extension Center in Aurora, OR. He was able to study a new approach to growing strawberries by using a cost-effective low-tunnel method over the rows. Their initial research showed that this may provide up to 4 extra weeks of growth and harvest.

Phillip Treisman (left) and another worker in front of a low tunnel strawberry research plot.
Part of Emily Eckhardt’s research poster about recipes for fish cakes.

Despite being separated by most of the state, Emily Eckhardt made the most of the experience with daily virtual communication with her mentor and by receiving some helpful tools. While she did her research in Southern Oregon, her mentor was in Portland at the Food Innovation Center. Her project focused on developing protein products to feed groups like schools or hospitals. The opportunity also allowed her to work with organizations like ProCureWorks Northwest, Healthcare Without Harm, and the Oregon Department of Agriculture. Her outcomes produced two recipes for a fish cake and taco crumble, which are in further development at the FIC.

“I think it’s important to get involved. My experience was amazing, it helped me to grow, and has even changed what I’m doing for my major.”

 

Teresa Valdez completed her second year in the Undergraduate Research program in 2020. She was always interested in toxicology, but also in public health. Last year, when she did her first undergraduate research project, she realized that this kind of research:

“…gives purpose, and shows what toxicology research can do to help the public.”

Her research has been looking at chemical toxicity and carcinogen exposure and how it reacts with pulmonary function and inflammation. She enjoys the whole research process and has found a real passion for discovering something new. Now, when she encounters problems in research, she’s up to the challenge of finding ways to overcome them. This whole process has solidly confirmed what she wants to do in the future and is currently enrolled in the accelerated Master’s program at OSU.

Teresa Valdez and other undergraduate students used Zoom to virtually show and explain their research posters.

If you’re interested in learning more about this program, or if you would like to see these or some of the other 20 undergraduates’ research, you can visit https://agsci.oregonstate.edu/undergraduate-research. For students who want to apply for this program, it will be open Nov. 4-19, 2020.

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