Emily Ehsan '22

November 25, 2019

Undergraduate Research Shines at CURB Fall Forum

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On Thursday, the Cornell Undergraduate Research Board held their bi-annual symposium. Over 40 undergraduate students presented research ranging from diabetes treatment to improved crude-oil extraction techniques to the benefits of obligatory language requirements, to faculty and students.

CURB aims to promote undergraduate research on campus, and the fall forum is one platform that allows students to do so. The event was organized by the symposium committee and encourages research from a diverse array of disciplines including biological sciences, engineering and applied science and social sciences.

In order to be eligible to participate in the event, undergraduate students must submit an abstract for their research to the CURB symposium committee and prepare a poster presentation.

According to Jonathan Han ’21, chair of the symposium committee, while the majority of the presenters have biology-oriented research projects, the committee tried to include more social science research this semester.

One such project examined the merits of obligatory language training in French Immigrant integration policy. This research was presented by Sophie Partington ’21, sociology and french double major and Laura DeMassa ’21, English and government double major.

However, the student researchers represented a wide range of colleges and majors. Juan Pablo Jordan-Davalos ’21, a biological sciences exchange student from Ecuador, presented his research on a newly discovered spider species from Ecuador. He is studying the Araneidae species through molecular barcoding, which examines DNA relationships between this new species and other well known spider species.

Natalie Brown ’20, a biology and society major, presented her research on beta islet cells, which are located within the pancreas and are responsible for secreting the insulin hormone.

According to Brown, beta islet cells are important for metabolic regulation within the body. Since the onset of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes is due to a deficit in beta cells, Brown focuses on their regulation and regeneration.

“If we find out what is going wrong in these beta cells, we can target that, and stop the progression of diabetes before it starts,” Brown said.

Engineering students also participated in the symposium. Julia Radzio ’21, a mechanical engineering major, presented her research on the inefficiency of current oil extraction techniques from reservoirs.

“This is a really unique project due to the fact that it incorporates a lot of interesting fluid mechanics and mechanical engineering principles to solve a prominent and important problem,” Radzio said.

At the end of the night, winners were chosen in each category of research, but all participants benefited from the chance to present their work and practice their scientific communication skills.


Applied Sciences: Justine Shih, CALS ’20, “Tensile Stress and Environmental Effects on Valve Interstitial Cells”

Biological Sciences (1): Brian Lee, CALS ’20, “Binding to Different Epitopes of CD20 Differentially Sensities DLBCL to Different Classes of Chemotherapy”

Biological Sciences (2): Matthew Guo, A&S ’19, “Elucidating the checkpoint Signaling Functions of the RAD9A Mammalian DNA Damage Response Protein”

Humanities and Social Sciences: Sarah Coupal, HumEc ’22, “Feasibility and Acceptability of Video-Dining in Community-Dwelling Older Adults”


Brian Lee '20 presents winning research poster

Emily Ehsan '22

Brian Lee ’20 presents winning research poster.


“I’m just glad to have had the opportunity to share what I’ve been working on with other undergraduates and researchers on this campus,” said Mathew Guo ’19, one of the winners in the biological sciences category. “It is an opportunity that gives students a chance to learn by doing, by making mistakes, by persevering, and by realizing what they don’t know.”

He also cited the importance of being able to explain the reasoning, significance, and impact of his work to a general person, which is why having a platform like the symposium is beneficial.

The keynote speaker of the evening was Ryan Lombardi, vice president of student and campus life. In his speech, he said that “research is the lifeblood of an institution like Cornell.”

According to Lombardi, the skills students develop from participating in undergraduate research include critical thinking, creative thinking and experience with real-world problem solving. Lombardi also urged the undergraduate students in attendance to “use the intelligence that all of you have to do good for others.”