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Research to be showcased at IdeaFest 2012

Students don’t have to be a biology or chemistry major to participate in undergraduate research — and that’s one thing IdeaFest celebrates.

IdeaFest is an annual event at the University of South Dakota that celebrates student research. This year the event is April 11-12.

Ranging from poster and oral presentations to live performances, students in all majors have the opportunity to share their learning.

“It provides students with the opportunity to present research in a comfortable, safe environment before they get into the professional world,” former IdeaFest chair Brennan Jordan said. “IdeaFest offers another setting to get students involved in undergrad research.”

This year’s chair, associate professor of basic biomedical sciences Brian Burrell, said he’s excited to show off this year’s research.

“We’re expecting to have very interesting talks from our speakers,” Burrell said. “There is a nice range of student presentations. We even have one student who is going to perform with instruments from the music museum.”

In order to participate in the event, students are required to submit an abstract of their research, Jordan said. Most projects are accepted unless they have a research flaw.

Because IdeaFest is open to all students, Jordan said it has a variety of topics.

“There’s a wide spectrum of ideas and majors represented,” Jordan said. “There are students who present their Honors senior thesis research and there are others who present class projects or research they worked on with faculty.”

Burrell said giving students the chance to present their research stems from USD’s impact on undergraduate research.

“It’s important to give students the opportunity to present independent scholarship,” Burrell said. “USD is one of the few universities that really supports undergraduate research in all fields, not just the hard sciences or math. The university should be really proud.”

Senior Ally Higgins is presenting at IdeaFest for the second year. Higgins said presenting her research now will help her in the future.

“The benefits to participating in IdeaFest are just good practice,” Higgins said. “No matter what your career is, you’ll always have to do presentations and speak in front of people.”

As a U. Discover scholar, senior Teniesha Kessler is required to present research at IdeaFest. For her presentation, Kessler is showcasing her Honors senior thesis.

“I’m an English creative writing major and I am presenting my research on the diary of a World War II soldier who was a South Dakota native and died during the war,” Kessler said. “I was searching for a topic and went and dug around in the university archives. When I came across his letters, I was instantly connected.”

With all of the posters and speakers, Higgins said she thinks people get the wrong idea about IdeaFest.

“When people see the posters and talks, they get scared off by the scientists,” Higgins said. “But there’s a good variety of topics. There are AWOL members presenting what they learned on their service learning trips, business models and much more. USD does a good job promoting all fields.”

Not only will USD students be presenting at IdeaFest, there will also be two keynote speakers.

Gayle Lemmon is the author of “The Dressmaker of Khair Khana,” and will be discussing the roles Afghan women play during difficult times in their country. Dana Miller is an assistant professor of biochemistry at the University of Washington School of Medicine. Miller’s lecture will discuss how using suspended animation could help save lives.

“I like to talk to non-scientists about science stuff,” Miller said. “A lot of decisions in politics are based on misunderstandings of how science works. Hopefully, I can show students some examples of how science approaches problems.”

Miller’s research uses suspended animation on animals. She said one day, suspended animation will hopefully be used to not let people die when bad things happen.

“If someone has a heart attack and falls over and dies, you can put them into suspended animation so doctors can bring them back to life without adverse complications,” Miller said. “But we need to know the fundamental principles of how it works. I’m fascinated by the sorts of things animals can do. It’s not science fiction anymore, you can do it in the lab.”

Jordan encourages students to take time and stop by some of the presentations.

“It’s an opportunity to find out things fellow students are doing,” Jordan said. “Most students often aren’t aware of research opportunities. IdeaFest shows the broad spectrum of opportunities and helps develop the intellectual culture of the university.”

Reach reporter Cassie Bartlett at [email protected].