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November 10, 2015

Cornell Undergraduate Research Board Hosts Fifth Annual Fall Forum

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On Nov. 4, more than 50 student presenters and 300 onlookers filled into the Physical Sciences Building’s Clark Atrium for the Cornell Undergraduate Research Board’s Fall Forum, sharing student research being performed on all corners of campus.

This year’s event was the fifth ever and had one the largest turnouts yet, according to Jimmy Guo ’16, co-president of CURB.

“We started the Fall Forum five years ago, as we saw that many students who conducted research over summer needed an outlet to share their work on campus,” Guo said. “It started off fairly small, but we’ve since grown it to be our second largest annual event.”

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Brittney Chew / Sun News Photography Editor

Research subjects spanned across several colleges and majors, and students of various class years presented.

Nancy Jiang ’19 presented on her work in the Lab of Tissue Morphodynamics in the National Cancer Institute.

“We looked at the role of the microenvironment in cancer cell development, focusing especially on the extracellular matrix, and examined cancer cell morphology in different conditions and with different models,” Jiang said.

Jiang’s research, performed under Dr. Kandice Tanner, dealt with proteins tenascin-c and fibronectin — both involved in cell migration, cell proliferation and wound healing — and their relationship to cancer cells’ colonization of the brain.

Two projects focused on building autonomous vehicles.

“My group is trying to build the world’s best autonomous bicycle,” Arundathi Sharma ’17 said. “Existing self-stabilizing bicycles make use of gyroscopes or flywheels to stay upright. Our goal is to build a bike that balances the way humans do: using steering manipulation.”

According to Sharma, others who have attempted this challenge have created bicycles that are not very stable and may only effectively balance while moving at certain high speeds.

“If we’re successful, we will have developed a control algorithm that robustly keeps the bicycle upright even while stationary,” she said.

Mukund Sudarshan ’17 is part of a group — the Cornell Autonomous Sailboat Team — that seeks to build a self-sufficient boat that will be able to stay out on the ocean for long periods of time without returning back to land to renew energy.

“Using sophisticated navigation algorithms and a base station for relaying weather information (storms, tsunamis, etc.), our boat will be survive on the rough seas despite its tiny proportions,” Sudarshan said. “Since it is only about a meter in length, we estimate the cost per useful data sample from such a boat to be 11 times cheaper than the next best alternative.”

The main goal of such a vessel would be to collect ocean data more efficiently and cheaply, according to Sudarshan.

“The successful completion of CAST’s goals would mean there would be a cleaner, cheaper and more robust way to gather vital information about our planet’s oceans,” Sudarshan said.

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Brittney Chew / Sun News Photography Editor

There were also several representatives from the social sciences.

Kelsey Sklar ’17 and Megan Szpak ’16 worked with  Katherine Dickin, human ecology, in a Cornell Cooperative Extension internship last summer to study feeding practices among low-income families in upstate New York.

“We interviewed 12 low-income primary caregivers about how they feed their children, what goals and challenges arise around feeding practices, and how their habits have changed over their life course,” Sklar said.

Honore Johnson ’16 and her “Bargaining for Better Schools” project aims to gather information regarding teacher evaluation protocols, collective bargaining agreements and other labor-management relations in New York State schools.

“By analyzing about 700 school district collective bargaining agreements, we are providing accurate and up to date information for policy makers, concerned citizens, teacher and school administration,” Johnson said.

Participating in the forum was helpful for various reasons, including the fact that it prompted groups to create a poster of their findings.

“The best part about designing a poster was that we were able to reflect on our work and focus our research analysis for the rest of the semester,” Sklar said.

Sharma said she believes the forum is a good way for researchers to interact with other departments.

“There aren’t many opportunities for students to see what’s new in departments outside of their own,” Sharma said. “The Fall Forum was a great chance to see a variety of interesting research projects going on all over Cornell in a broad range of disciplines.

Sudarshan agreed, saying the cross-discipline approach provided a perspective that allowed students to guage the impact of one’s own research in other fields.

Jiang said she believes it was a good opportunity for underclassmen to get involved in the research community at Cornell.

“Taking part in Fall Forum as a freshman was intimidating at first, but everyone I talked to seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say,” Jiang said. “I think it’s important to get exposed to the research environment at Cornell as early as possible, and I really enjoyed presenting and learning about the incredible research other students have done.”

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