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Undergraduate research prowess on display

Fair highlights Faculty’s commitment to engaging its students in research before  completing their bachelors’ degrees

Photo of: L-R: Marieke de Korte, Alexandra Gaglione, Cindy Liu and Cameron So.

This four-student team took on the challenge of creating a biofilter to remove nutrients from greywater. L-R: Marieke de Korte, Alexandra Gaglione, Cindy Liu and Cameron So.

Dozens of Arts & Science students crowded the Great Hall at Hart House on March 3 to proudly display posters summarizing their undergraduate research projects and explain them to all comers.

The Undergraduate Research Fair highlighted the fact that now, more than ever before, the Faculty is committed to engaging its students in research before they complete their bachelors’ degrees. They have the opportunity to participate in a full-year research opportunity during their second year; a research excursion that takes them into the field during their third year; and an international course module that involves travelling to undertake an intensive research project during Reading Week or the summer session.

Active learning with great faculty mentors

“I’m impressed with the quality of research going on in these programs,” said Professor Penelope Lockwood, the Faculty’s acting associate dean (undergraduate). “For students, this is a great chance to get engaged in active learning with some great faculty mentorship.”

While many of the posters displayed science and social science research projects, students in the humanities also made themselves known. Joshua Zung, who is studying classics and computer science, worked to transcribe ancient Greek musical notation into modern notation. A clarinetist with the Toronto Youth Symphony Orchestra, Zung performed one of the pieces he had successfully translated.

“This was an excellent first research opportunity to understand a completely new topic myself and go to the original sources,” said Zung, who worked with Professor Emeritus John Traill of the Department of Classics.

Deciphering an ancient hymn Challenging. Playing it? Amazing!

Among the pieces he deciphered were a Delphic hymn from the Second Century BC, first discovered in the 1890s; and the Seikilos Song, engraved on a tombstone.

Although these pieces have been transcribed by others, there is scholarly debate about many of the notes.

“People who transcribe it aren’t always correct,” Zung said. “I did it as a challenge. I didn’t want to take their transcriptions for granted; I wanted to see for myself.”

Art History + FADIS  = Digital Humanities

Junlin Liu and Theresa Wang, both art history students, undertook a project to improve the search process for scholars using the University of Toronto’s Federated Academic Digital Imaging System (FADIS), a free, online image repository. Working with Professors Andreas Motsch of the Department of French and Harriet Sonne de Torrens of visual studies at UTM, they worked with a number of images of Native Americans in the New World – Nouvelle France Collection, French art that dated back to the late 16th century. The duo examined the icons in each image and categorized them using the Library of Congress cataloguing system as a standard.

As they examined the images, they were also able to see the prejudices of the people who created them.

“When you look at the images, you can’t take the titles for granted,” said Wang. “One of the titles refers to cannibalism, but it’s actually a ceremony.”

Wang was also excited about contributing to FADIS, because it is a tool she and Liu use regularly in their classes.

“It’s great to see how people are bettering the system,” she said.

Getting their hands dirty creating a greywater filtration system

Marieke de Korte, a second-year neuroscience and immunology student, got her hands dirty literally as part of a four-student team that took on the challenge of creating a biofilter to remove nutrients from greywater, a challenge assigned by Brad Bass, an adjunct professor in the School of the Environment.

The team was required to design a filter that would help prevent algae from growing in the tubing of a hydraulophone, a musical instrument created by Professor Steve Mann of Engineering that runs on water. They are hoping to take their filtration system to an upcoming national research symposium.

“We reviewed the literature available on substances to use in a filter and looked into the plants that would maximize nutrient uptake so they wouldn’t remain in the water,” de Korte said.

“The collaborative and hands-on aspects of research are fantastic,” she added. “I also developed leadership and social skills that I can apply outside of research.”

Professor David Cameron, dean of the Faculty of Arts & Science, applauded everyone involved in the undergraduate research endeavours.

“We are a research- intensive university, and it is one of our great and distinguishing characteristics,” he said. “Students, I am proud of your willingness to open yourselves up to these experiences.”

Undergraduate Research Fair Slideshow

  • Dozens of students crowded the Great Hall at Hart House to proudly display posters summarizing their undergraduate research projects. Photo: Diana Tyszko.