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Texas Student Research Showdown 2018

These undergrads are doing research to change lives. Their next challenge: how to tell the world about it.

Most researchers are taught early in their careers how to communicate with other experts in their field. But can they tell the story of their research to a hiring committee? Or harder yet, to their grandma?

The annual Texas Student Research Showdown, organized by the Office of Undergraduate Research at The University of Texas, gives students a chance to show off their science story chops. Students compete with 2-minute videos that translate their scholarship in ways that anyone can understand. A panel of faculty judges scores the videos on how well they capture an audience’s attention, how well they tell a narrative about the work, whether the methods suggest rigorous scholarly or creative activity and how well the student targets a general, rather than expert, audience.

On Tuesday Nov. 13, President Gregory L. Fenves welcomed everyone to the Showdown event.

“At UT, students apply the knowledge they’ve gained in the classroom to research projects that challenge them to think critically, develop solutions to complex problems and communicate their discoveries to a wide audience. Our undergraduate students learn by doing research. This gives them a deeper understanding of their disciplines, the world around them and the professional roles they aspire to after graduation,” he said.

Of the 27 submissions, four undergraduate researchers were selected as winners. The judges’ top videos received awards of $2,500, $1,000, and $500, generously funded by a gift from Kimberly and Scott Martin. In addition, several students also participated in an audience award competition, creating 30- to 45-second social media videos. The audience award winner received a $1,000 prize.

First place ($2,500)

Cosmic Bullets: Detection of Particles from Outer Space
Zoe de Beurs, Physics honors junior

 

Second place ($1,000):

Preventing Racial Bias in Autism Spectrum Disorder Screening
Kelsey Mumford, Nursing and biology senior

 

Third place ($500):

Benefits of Iconicity for Comprehension of a Signed Second Language
Emily Saunders, English honors and linguistics senior

 

Audience award ($1,000)

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever Detection via LAMP
Simren Lakhotia, Neuroscience pre-med junior

Several of the Showdown participants will be part of a group to visit the Texas State Capitol as well as other outreach events in coming months in efforts to share the value of student research and experiential learning — as a means for addressing challenges to the health and well-being of Texans and as a way of generating economic activity.