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UC Davis conference showcases undergraduate research

April 21, 2014

Making music with lasers

Video (14 sec)

Videography by Joe Proudman

Man standing in field holding soil

Simon Staley, a biological systems engineering major, will present research that offers an enhanced way to kill weeds and sterilize soil before planting. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis photo)

From identifying the effects of Twitter hashtags on the German language to engineering a harp that uses lasers in place of strings, nearly 500 University of California, Davis, undergraduates will showcase their discoveries and artistic creations on campus Friday and Saturday.

The 25th annual Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities Conference is a cornerstone of the undergraduate research experience at UC Davis, ranked ninth among public research universities nationwide.

The public is invited to attend the free event, which will include oral and poster presentations and an arts exhibit. Prospective students and their families interested in learning more about UC Davis are especially welcome.

“It’s going to be like a beehive with people coming and going,” said sophomore Simon Staley of Turlock, Calif.

A biological systems engineering major, he will present research that offers an enhanced way to kill weeds and sterilize soil before planting. Analyzing soil samples from test plots, he found that adding organic matter amendments to soil before covering it with a transparent tarp in the sun can, through fermentation, deactivate weeds and speed up the soil sanitation process.  

Born in South Africa, Staley said he hopes his undergraduate education and research experiences will prepare him to address food insecurity and farmer poverty in Africa.

Ralph J. Hexter, provost and executive vice chancellor at UC Davis, said the conference highlights student talent and achievement from across the campus and is a great learning experience for undergraduates.

“It gives students a rare opportunity to present their research or creative work in a professional setting — the type of experience that can be key to securing admission to graduate school or successfully launching a career.”

About 5,000 undergraduates conduct research in any given year, typically working directly with faculty, postdoctoral researchers and graduate students. UC Davis offers opportunities for undergraduates to compete for grants and awards and publish their work. Read one student's blog, Small steps to becoming a scientist.

More than 350 faculty members have sponsored or recommended students for participation in the conference, and about 50 campus leaders — including deans, department chairs and faculty — will moderate the oral and poster sessions.

Poster presentations, in which students discuss their work with circulating conference-goers, and the arts exhibit will be held from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Friday in Freeborn Hall. Oral presentations will be held from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday in Wellman Hall. 

For more information, visit the Undergraduate Research Center website or email urc@ucdavis.edu.

About UC Davis

UC Davis is a global community of individuals united to better humanity and our natural world while seeking solutions to some of our most pressing challenges. Located near the California state capital, UC Davis has more than 34,000 students, and the full-time equivalent of 4,100 faculty and other academics and 17,400 staff. The campus has an annual research budget of over $750 million, a comprehensive health system and about two dozen specialized research centers. The university offers interdisciplinary graduate study and 99 undergraduate majors in four colleges and six professional schools.

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