Aresty Symposium to Showcase Research by Rutgers Undergraduates

Aresty Symposium to Showcase Research by Rutgers Undergraduates

More than 500 student posters will be on exhibit April 28 at the Livingston Student Center

Aresty
Students and attendees discuss the research presented at the Aresty Undergraduate Research Symposium.
Photo: Nick Romanenko, Rutgers University
During the summer of 2006, Jennifer Van Saders, a rising Rutgers sophomore from Asbury, New Jersey, took part in the Aresty Research Center’s summer program. She worked with Charles Keeton, professor of physics and astronomy, studying the way galaxies bend light. That summer made all the difference in her career.

Van Saders, now a postdoctoral researcher at the Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, California, is one of more than 3,000 students who have participated in Aresty research programs, which pair students with faculty on research projects and encourage them to present their work at the annual Aresty undergraduate symposium.

“I can say with some certainty that the Aresty program is the reason I am an astronomer,” Van Saders says. “It was the Aresty program that gave me the first introduction to the realities of a career in astronomy.”

This year’s student research will be on display at the 13th annual Aresty Undergraduate Research Symposium on Friday, April 28. More than 500 undergraduates are planning to present their work at the event, being held in the Livingston Student Center from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The talks and poster presentations will span the life sciences, physical sciences, social sciences and humanities.

The Aresty Research Center was founded in 2004 with a generous donation by Jerome and Lorraine Aresty. Since its inception, the center has worked with thousands of students like Van Saders, who was one of the first, and has provided approximately $2.2 million in support of undergraduate research.

Keeton, faculty director for the Aresty Research Center, says that any undergraduate at Rutgers University-New Brunswick may apply to take part in Aresty programs, including the annual symposium. The idea behind the center, he says, is to encourage students to create knowledge, not merely consume it.

“In most research universities, real research experience is hard to come by for undergraduates,” Keeton says. “Often, it’s restricted to certain students, and the burden of finding a research project, or getting research advice from faculty, is entirely on the students. But at Aresty, we actively match students with faculty in terms of their research interests.” those interests.”

Among the work on display in this year’s symposium are these three projects:

Neural Network Engineering: Sam Cheung, a junior electrical and computer engineering major in the School of Engineering, wants to train a network of artificial neurons – loosely analogous to biological neurons – to hear a voice and imagine the face that goes with it. “We train a neural network to take in an audio file of a person speaking with emotion (or no emotion) and output what the network thinks the person looks like,” Cheung says. “It does this using a small library of blend-shape heads that can stitch together a talking head.”

Dance Therapy and Parkinson’s Disease:  Eileen Hsieh and Shivani Mehta measured the effect of dance therapy on the symptoms of people with Parkinson’s Disease, a neurodegenerative disorder that slowly reduces the brain’s ability to produce dopamine, which helps control movement. The participants began with seated warm-ups, moving to exercises at the ballet barre, and ends with circle dancing – each stage being used to address a specific set of Parkinson’s symptoms, with a view toward delaying the progress of the disease. Hsieh and Mehta are juniors in the School of Arts and Sciences, majoring in exercise science and biological science, respectively.

Rescuing a 19th-century Woman Doctor’s Sex Advice for Men: Evelyn Daly-Forseth, a junior environmental sciences major in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, has stepped outside her academic field and her century for her Aresty project. Working with Kyla Schuller, assistant professor of women’s and gender studies in the School of Arts and Sciences, Daly-Forseth is preparing to republish Unmasked, or The Science of Immortality, to Gentlemen a sex advice manual written by Mary Edwards Walker and originally published in 1878. Walker, one of the first female medical doctors in the United States, was a Civil War surgeon, Confederate prisoner of war, campaigner for woman suffrage and women’s rights, and the first woman to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor.