19th Annual STEM Symposium breaks record for second straight year

President Ali Houshmand (left) listens to the presentation of Taylor Keagy (right), a junior biochemistry major.

Hundreds of students gathered throughout the day in the Chamberlain Student Center Eynon Ballroom to present their independent research for the 19th Annual Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Student Research Symposium, on Friday.

For at least the second year in a row, the symposium hosted a record-setting number of presentations, with 171 different groups showcasing their research throughout the event. Last year’s symposium hosted 163 presentations, breaking the previous record of 117. Presentations were required to have at least one Rowan student involved, and had to be given in the form of a poster which would be on display during the event. Members of each research team stood by their posters during one of four, 90-minute presentation periods to answer questions and provide depth to their work.

Topics ranged from computer game artificial intelligence to antibiotic research. Each year the symposium offers students an opportunity to work on their presentation skills before moving on to bigger, national conferences in the summer, which many of them do.

“What will happen is that this is the practice run for many students who are going to present at national conferences,” said Gregory Hecht, STEM coordinator and organizer of the symposium. “This is a way of presenting preliminary data; there’s going to be some papers that come out of what happens here.”

For many students, the STEM Symposium is the first time they have the opportunity to present their work to others outside of the classroom, and that can be a difficult experience.

“My first time was really hard,” said Louisa E. Abiuso, a senior biochemistry major. This was her third year presenting at the STEM Symposium. “I was a sophomore and it was really hard talking about something I didn’t know a lot about. Now it’s much easier.”

Abiuso and her partners were presenting research they’d conducted concerning the reaction of a specific protein, myoglobin, with various ionic liquids. These liquids cause the protein to change its structure and can either result in a new function or the cessation of function in the protein.

“There was already this project going on and I just kind of jumped on to it,” said Eric Kohn, a freshman biochemistry major and one of Abiuso’s partners. “It’s great, I really love [being here] talking to people. But I also think the research is important.”

The event was open to the public, though most of those in attendance were members of the Rowan community, being either students or members of the faculty.

Still, some members of the STEM fields outside of Rowan were in attendance, as were a number of interested citizens outside the university. One of those citizens was Charles Cuneo, the scout representative for the Glassboro Boy Scouts’ STEM troop. He got the troop excused from school so that they could attend.

“I came here last year and said, ‘This is the kind of stuff [the boys] need to know,'” Cuneo said. “This is eye opening. Every section they’ve found at least one or two things that interest them.”

Rowan President Ali Houshmand capped off the record-setting day with an appearance at the event, taking pictures and hearing about the work of students from the university.

“I’m here because the students are number one,” Houshmand said. “Every time I come in here, every year, it’s getting better and better. To see these creative people displaying their work, it’s incredible.”

Last year was the first time coordinators had to add an extra slot of presentations because of the record-setting number, increasing the number of slots from three to four. With the number of participants continuing to increase each year, it may not be long before a fifth section is needed as well.

“I have no reason to believe it won’t be even larger next year,” Hecht said.

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  1. Our son a Scout (12) attended for the 1st time. The students talked with him, answered his questions & explained what they knew to him. He was fascinated by their displays, they were impressed with his questions. A real mutual exchange of interest between generations. Very nice to see in this day & age. Thank you Rowan students; you sparked his interest for sure!