The future of research


Caryana Dominguez

Robin Witt and Alyssa Hintz present a Department of Biochemistry project at the UW System Symposium for Undergraduate Research during a poster session in the Hamilton Room of the University Center Friday, April 22, 2022.

Ivy Steege, Campus News Editor

UW-Whitewater hosted its first in-person UW System Research Symposium since the event’s inception in 1999. Whitewater originally was allotted to host the 2020 UW System Symposium before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the event to go virtual. The symposium took place April 22, when 12 University of Wisconsin schools and two private institutions attended to showcase their undergraduate students’ research.

The event kicked off Friday morning with a greeting from Assistant Vice Chancellor of Student Diversity, Engagement and Success Ozalle Toms. She welcomed the over 500 participants and many more attendees to a day full of research presentations, poster sessions and discussions.

Keynote speaker for the event was information technology supply chain management professor Jo Ann Oravec who gave a riveting talk about contemporary research on artificial intelligence. Oravec also encouraged students to partake in “humble bragging” to promote their work for the benefit of their peers and the public.

The 20th annual research symposium included presentations such as one about over-the-counter melatonin and other presentations like that of UW-River Falls junior Johanna Haines who traveled over four hours to present her team’s findings on anesthetic placements in dairy calves.

“It definitely opens your horizons to everything. I guess since we’re a part of the agriculture school at River Falls, we just don’t really look at biology, geology, physics, or other stuff like that,” said Haines. “So walking around and saying ‘oh, I’ve never really thought about researching different rocks’ or things like that. I’ve never thought of that. It’s really neat to see.”

Jenna Kerkvliet presents at the UW-Systems Symposium for Undergraduate Research as a representative of UW-Whitewater, in the Department of Biological Sciences, at the Hamilton Room in the University Center. (Caryana Dominguez)

Whitewater students were also able to showcase the work they have done as an undergrad. While also volunteering at the event, Ali Cunningham presented about the psychophysics of affordance perception and memory.

“I think it was really important just being out and having to present my research to people,” said Cunningham. “We practiced in the lab weeks before this, but actually explaining it to someone who has no idea what any of the words on our posters means – it’s such a good skill to have. So it was really cool just to see a bunch of diverse people come up to our poster.” 

Behind the scenes of the event was newcomer UW-W Director of Undergraduate Research Ana Caballero Mengibar. She was just recently appointed in January of this year. Previously, Caballero Mengibar worked as a professor of political science on campus before being named as interim director of undergraduate research in the fall of 2021. 

“I know it was very late to plan in November when I took over. I knew I had to do an excellent job because I really wanted Whitewater to be perceived as the great school that it is,” said Cabellero Mengibar. “I worked day and night and used my best skills to make sure that we put together the best symposium in the history of Whitewater, which is this first one.” 

Caballero Mengibar was not alone in her hard work. Many members of the Undergraduate Research Program helped with preparations and operations, including associate Danielle Story, graduate assistant Matt Tarrant and intern Ali Cunningham – all were present behind the scenes to ensure everything ran smoothly. 

Capping off the event at the end of the day was Interim UW-W Chancellor John Chenoweth, who congratulated the students and their mentors on a job well done. Chenoweth encouraged the students to continue their research pursuits making UW-Whitewater and the entire UW System proud of their accomplishments in research.