Students present research for legislators

Purple banners, posters and name tags filled the rotunda at the state capitol building Thursday as Weber State University students displayed and presented their undergraduate and community-based research projects in WSU’s annual Day at the Capitol.

Weber State University students gather in the rotunda at the capitol building to present their undergraduate and community-based research for state legislators.

[media-credit name=”Eric Jensen” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]

Every year, students are given opportunities to show legislators the research they have been conducting at WSU. Students constructed poster displays and discussed their research projects with legislators and community members.

“I think there is an amazing depth and breadth of research that’s being presented by our students,” said Ann Millner, WSU president. “It’s wonderful to see them from disciplines across the campus engaged in either basic research or research that involves issues in our community.”

During the legislative session, lawmakers will discuss several issues facing Utah, including what resources will be allocated for institutions of higher education.

“We want the state legislators to know what their funding for higher education is doing,” said John Cavitt, director of the office of undergraduate research. “These are fantastic examples of how resources coming from the state to higher education are making their way back to the community and making their way back to the different disciplines that can really benefit and provide a better quality experience for everyone in the state of Utah.”

Some research projects on display included why online piracy is largely undeterred, how to make inventory systems in Utah warehouses more effective and how molecule separation benefits scientific research.

Jamie Jensen, a senior in the dental hygiene department, presented research about the ways social media can have a positive influence on education. She said the project she and her team developed was important because it has practical application in today’s higher education organizations.

Whitnee Evans, who worked with Jensen on the project, said she wanted legislators to see the usefulness of their research.

“We wanted to help get the word out about how learning can take place on social media,” Evans said, “and that it’s not just for playing around. Learning can actually take place and people can help each other.”

Brenda Kowalewski, director of the Community Involvement Center, was at the Capitol and helped facilitate the event. She said the displays helped inform legislators how state funds are an important investment and have a positive, immediate influence on communities throughout the state.

“Much of the undergraduate research that is here has some impact for the community,” Kowalewski said, “or has some implication for the community some way. Or we have our community-based projects that are here as well, and all of them are working with community organizations and are having a direct and immediate impact.”

Zack Cowder, a senior in the computer and electronics engineering department, said he hoped legislators would see the benefits of continuing to fund research at WSU.

“It’s important for legislators to see what Weber State is getting involved with,” Cowder said, “and to know that the funds they allocate for Weber Sate are going toward a good cause. That money doesn’t only benefit Weber State students, but it benefits the community”

In addition to showing the benefits of higher education in the state, Millner said the event is an important chance for legislators to learn about WSU-specific research.

“Oftentimes, legislators think about universities as a whole,” Millner said, “and when they think about them as whole, it’s easy not to connect with the individual students on our campus and the work that they’re doing as part of their learning experiences. I think it’s important for legislators to connect to students, to hear directly from students, and for students to be able to share their learning experiences and how that will prepare them for the future.”