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STAIRSTEP students present research

Eight STAIRSTEP undergraduates presented their research at the 3rd Annual Texas STEM Conference recently.  The conference was hosted by Lamar University’s Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) and funded by ExxonMobil. 

Students with posterThe eight are members of Lamar’s STAIRSTEP, or STudents Advancing through Involvement in Research Student Talent Expansion Program, aimed at the retention and excellence of underrepresented groups in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Physics senior Keeley Townley-Smith of Lumberton and juniors Mark Worth of Vidor, John Pickren of Beaumont, and Carlos Caballero of Nederland made oral presentations on their STAIRSTEP research performed under the direction of faculty mentor Cristian Bahrim.

Caballero presented on “Active Flow Control (AFC) Systems on Aerospace Surfaces for Improving Aircraft Performance.” Pickren and Townley-Smith teamed on “Identification of Chemical Composition of Medicines through Optical Analysis.  Townley-Smith joined with Worth on “Resolving the shape of a light source from polarization measurements.”

 “Because this is my first conference event, I found that I learned a lot about what it means to present what you've researched for a period of time,” Pickren said. “I found it educational and worthwhile, and now I'm more prepared for when I present my work again. This event has helped me understand what it means to be a part of the scientific community.”

Computer science senior Timothy Holcombe of Lumberton and juniors Timothy Gonzales of Beaumont and Colin Smith of Bridge City presented posters of their research on behalf of their STAIRSTEP teams directed by faculty mentor Peggy Doerschuk.

Holcombe, Greg Yera, Gonzales, Hannah Leleux, Logan Smith, Alexander Strong, and Smith, examined “Work in Progress: Machine Learning in Robotics. ” “Work in Progress: Improving the Performance of the Radial Basis Function Network” was the project of Gonzales, Logan Smith, and Alexander Strong. Gonzales, Hannah Leleux, Timothy Holcombe, Smith, Alexander Strong, and Greg Yera, presented “Work in Progress: Programming is a Snap!: Increasing knowledge and interest in computing.”

 “The Texas STEM Conference not only gave me experience in presenting research, but rejuvenated my interest in it,” Smith said. “Being around dozens of people so passionate about their fields of research and so curious about ours set an atmosphere of comradery, fellowship and positivity. There was not a single attendee who was not genuinely interested in the research being presented nor a presenter who was not both knowledgeable and passionate about their respective projects.”

Jonathan Hodges of Beaumont, a senior majoring in computer science and mathematics, is a member of the STAIRSTEP Math team led by faculty mentor Jennifer Daniel.  He is also an ASCENT scholar, led by faculty mentor Stefan Andrei.  Hodges presented his ASCENT research, which expands his STAIRSTEP research, “Automaton Theory and PCG in Video Games.” Hodges finds conferences such as the STEM conference invaluable to students because it helps them develop public speaking skills. “The work needed to take a topic, learn about it, do the research, and present it develops both work ethic and illustrates the passion each student has for their research,” Hodges said.

 “We are grateful to the Office of Undergraduate Research Director Kumer Das and ExxonMobil for giving our students this opportunity,” Doerschuk said.