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Celebrating Student Scholarship

Written by Mike Thee

June 3, 2019

SUURA brochure

Image credit: Cover image and program for SUURA 2019 was designed by Elena Selthun and Dev McCauley

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Undergraduate research is thriving, growing at Seattle U

An impressive array of student research was presented at the Seattle University Undergraduate Research Association (SUURA) Conference on May 31. 

Kicking off the daylong, campus-wide celebration was Molly Clark Hillard, director of student research and associate professor of English. She shared that this year’s conference included 134 student presenters mentored by 50 faculty members and spanning 16 departments or programs. Student participation in SUURA has increased 70 percent over the past two years, said Clark Hillard. ““I think that speaks so much to the vibrant and vital work that we’re doing with student research here at Seattle University. 

“I want to offer my congratulations to the students assembled today. The work that you have accomplished, your dedication to research and the life of the mind and your willingness to share your research results with the wider campus community—all of those are inspiring.” 

A multiplicity of disciplines was represented throughout the day, including presentations on “Democratic Institutions in Venezuela,” “’An Intricate Beautiful Thing’: On Fascination and Pastiche in Edward Scissorhands and The Shape of Water,” “Recycling Is a Big Mess, But Don’t Be Dismayed, There Is Hope!” and “Traveling Wave Solutions to the Whitman Equation.” 

The conference also featured a keynote talk by Sarah Cusworth Walker, PhD, of the National Institutes of Health as well as the launch of the third volume of the Seattle University Undergraduate Research Journal (SUURJ). 

Developed to highlight the research achievements of SU undergraduate students through a peer-reviewed online publication, SUURJ provides an editorial apprenticeship experience for students through a credit-bearing program that trains students to share stewardship of the journal. A joint project of the College of Arts and Sciences, the English Department, and the Office of the Provost, with additional support from Lemieux Library and the University Core, the journal highlights theoretical works, policy analyses, research-based editorial pieces, Core writing and other modes. 

One of SUURJ’s editors, Mikayla Medbery (anthropology, ’19), spoke about what she took away from working on the journal, particularly “how publishing is related to ethics and advocacy, adding, “With Dr. Hillard’s support and guidance, we chose to use this journal as a publication that values interdisciplinary representation, intersectional identities and experiences and all kinds of methodologies.” 

Another editor, Oliver Tufte (mathematics, ’20) spoke about the process of selecting the pieces to be published in the journal. “For me personally, this was a very empowering experience because as a student I had never really had this opportunity to have my voice heard in such important discussions, and I felt like I was really having an impact in something I was involved in.” He added that SUURJ gives undergraduates opportunities “in a realm that is typically only experienced by graduate students and doctors.”

The university’s strong commitment to undergraduate research was also highlighted by Brittany Takushi (cell molecular biology/chemistry, ’18) at the previous day’s groundbreaking for the new Center for Science and Innovation. Takushi, who works as a lab technician in Vaccine and Infectious Disease division at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, spoke about doing research at SU under the mentorship of Michael Zanis, assistant professor of biology. “My experience—my opportunity to do research—it completely changed the game for me.” 

Takushi said that as she did hands-on research, the concepts she was learning in class “suddenly didn’t seem so abstract anymore. My scientific curiosity exploded. I became a better student…Not only was this opportunity (to do research as an undergraduate) integral to my success as a student, but it was integral to my success as a scientist. 

“The amount of research experience we get here at Seattle U—it’s so unique.”

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