Thursday, April 25, 2013

Celebrating 14 Years of Undergraduate Research at Carolina - Part I

This week we'll hear from sophomore Frank Wu, who visited the annual Carolina Undergraduate Research Symposium last Friday.

With more than 60% of undergraduates conducting research, the symposium was in its 14th year this past week. Most importantly, the symposium brings together undergraduate of all backgrounds and majors. In my case, I was able to participate in research on income inequality during my first year, but I really enjoyed attending to symposium and learning more about the other kinds of undergraduate research going on at Carolina.

From projects such as Spanish phonology, the relationships between obesity and unemployment and wound healing, Carolina offers the opportunity for undergraduates to engage in research across all disciplines—the arts/humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences.

Not only was I able to see the research from my peers, I started some valuable conversations on their research and how we can utilize their research to make a difference in the world—a common goal for all Carolina students. In addition, I ran into quite a few friends doing research I had never expected. It was great hearing about the time they spent on these projects and the experience they’ve gained through them. As a result, I’ve sincerely been inspired to conduct further research myself, and hopefully write a senior thesis down the road!

One of the students I met during the symposium is Anand Shah, who is doing research on wound healing. I took the opportunity to ask him a few questions.

As part of your project, you synthesized a chemical that produces nitrous oxide, which has positive medical effects. Can you tell us a little bit more about that? 

For my research, I synthesized nitric oxide-releasing scaffolds. The goal of my project was to see the nitric oxide-releasing scaffolds' effect on cell proliferation and migration. Both of these abilities are vital in the wound healing process so now that I have confirmed the enhancing effect these scaffolds have on cell proliferation and migration, I am looking to test the effects in vivo. This will hopefully result in a faster wound healing process.

How did you get started doing research?

I became involved in research the summer after my first year. My path to involvement started in my Chem 241H class where Dr. Tiani had each student in the class interview an analytical researcher here at UNC. I was assigned to interview Dr. Schoenfisch and after looking into the research he was involved in, I found the projects interesting and decided to ask if he had any open positions. Luckily he did have a couple of spots open as seniors were graduating.

Do you have any advice for other students who want to do undergraduate research? 

To first-year students I would recommend looking into a department they are interested in and then look at what professors in that department are involved in. With this list of professors students should try to stop by during their office hours or send them an email explaining their interest. From personal experience I have found how professors here are very interested in helping out students and even if they don't have an open spot they can easily recommend colleagues of theirs who do.

Stay tuned for another blog entry from Frank -- Undergraduate Research Part II!