SURA holds annual research conference

April 18, 2016, 12:57 a.m.

The Stanford Undergraduate Research Association (SURA) held the annual Stanford Research Conference (SRC) last weekend to showcase undergraduate research from universities around the country.

SURA is an undergraduate student group founded in 2014 to help support undergraduate research and create a community for collaboration.

Expanding on the Bay Area-only conference held last year, this year’s SRC was a national conference. 84 presenters from 40 schools across the  United States — and one presenter from Austria — participated.

“The SRC is the main jewel of our work,” said Karthik Ramasubramanian ’16, co-president of SURA. “We hope to bring like-minded researchers from across disciplines to focus on sharing their work.”

The application process for the conference was rigorous and targeted individuals who come from a diversity of fields across both the humanities and sciences. It included a research abstract as well as essay questions about the research journey and why the candidate sought the opportunity.

“We tried to bring a diverse number of research interests and schools so that individuals [would] have the chance to see what kind of research is out there and maybe even consider interdisciplinary work,” Ramasubramanian said.

The majority of the SURA participants took part in research in the natural sciences. One project investigated protein complexes that may help combat Huntington’s disease. Other projects ranged from exploring how politicians “flip-flop” on issues to how meat is processed in South America. The humanities were also represented, with one participant researching how passages in Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” are related to contemporary racism and oppression in the United States.

While SRC focuses on the presentation of research, other activities included a series of workshops to help student researchers and facilitate discussion. In one workshop, SURA partnered with the Stanford Space Initiative (SSI). In another, students learned an “elevator pitch” to share their research concisely.

Ramasubramanian and co-president Habib Khoury ’16 personally led a workshop to teach students how to set up undergraduate research associations, like SURA, at their home institutions.

The “Stanford Research Challenge” is another unique activity. According to Ramasubramanian, the event organizes teams randomly in a hackathon style. The participants must work together to identify a problem in the research process and present their solution to faculty for a prize, with the goal of meeting new people and collaborating successfully.

While the majority of presenters were students, professors from various fields also presented some of their work and discussed the importance of undergraduate research with the attendees.

According to the co-presidents, SRC provides an opportunity to learn from some of Stanford’s greatest researchers.

“One of the events I’m really excited about is the distinguished speakers panel,” Khoury said before the event. “It will include two Nobel Prize winners, Professor Douglas Osheroff and Professor Paul Berg, and Dan Schwartz, the Dean of the Stanford Graduate School of Education.”

Discussing their plans for the future, the SURA presidents noted that they hope to improve the quality of the conference by inviting more students from other universities as well as partnering with more student groups within Stanford.


Contact Zachary Brown at brown ‘at’

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