23 Oct

Due to my internship over the summer with the Aspirnaut Program at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, I had the opportunity to present my works to the Berea College science departments and at the Kentucky Academy of Sciences Symposium. I had prepared a 10-15min. PowerPoint presentation and a poster presentation for the two conferences, and I was excited to share my works with the college and the greater state of Kentucky.

Furthermore, the importance of attending science symposiums and conferences—such as KUH Symposium—is the ability to share your individual experiences, the opportunity to network with other undergraduates and professionals, and the potential to earn new experiences, insights, and opportunities.

Additionally, some conferences hold sessions and activities that span a broad array of disciplines to explore, while others may feature a select few disciplines specific to an area of expertise. Some conferences offer sessions for high schoolers and undergraduates, whilst other symposiums feature the works of undergraduates to postdoctoral fellows. Nevertheless, most conferences will offer award ceremonies and plenary speakers. 

All in all, each event is different and will offer differing opportunities and perspectives on science and careers that attendees can enjoy.

At Berea College, particularly, the science departments organize the Berea Undergraduate Research and Internship Symposium (BURIS) where students of various STEM disciplines (except computer science; they hold their own conference) exhibit their works as either a PowerPoint presentation or a poster session. 

Meanwhile, the Kentucky Academy of Sciences (KAS) Symposium organizes their conference around the scientific works of students enrolled in Kentuckian schools, colleges, and universities. This year, the 3-day event was held at Morehead State University and featured a broad array of individual works from junior scientist to undergraduates and even graduate students. The choice of a PowerPoint or poster presentation was given.

Also, as a small note, for a Berea College chemistry major, attending both symposiums is necessary to fulfill the “active learning” criteria of the degree. This may be true of other science concentrations as well.

Nonetheless, through both symposiums, I had learned quite a lot about other opportunities, disciplines, and events. Here, I will share my experiences with both the BURIS and the KAS Symposiums.

BURIS Symposium

The Berea Undergraduate Research and Internship Symposium (BURIS; formerly BURS) is an annual institutional science conference organized by the Division I departments of Berea College. The symposium is open to abstract submissions from a variety of disciplines, featuring chemistry, biology, biomedicine, physics, and more. 

There are opportunities to share either a poster or a PowerPoint presentation. The poster presentation requires students to stand by their exhibit for one hour in the lobby of the science building, whereas PowerPoint representations require students to give a 10-15min. presentation of their works. I chose a PowerPoint.

The symposium commenced on Friday, October 21st and lasted from 2:30p to 6:00p. I had submitted my abstract well before the deadline under the title: Discoidin Domain Receptor 1 phosphorylates adaptor protein p66Shc promoting mitochondrial oxidative stress.

My PowerPoint for the BURIS symposium was similar to the presentation prepared for the KUH Conference over the summer, but with few slide edits and adaptations. Further, I had presented in a similar manner but explained the content more broadly for everyone to understand.

Additionally, my presentation room was MAC 355 (where other biomedical-related presentations were held) and I was set to present at 4:30p that afternoon. 

Several students and peers, as well as professors and faculty, attended my presentation. I was only slightly nervous, but I was very well prepared and I had presented great.

Moreover, I had attended various slide and poster presentations designed by other students. There were posters on antibiotic resistance, new ligand complexes, clinical and veterinary internships, binary star systems, and many more! I was impressed by each individual presentation and presentee.

Lastly, at the conclusion of all PowerPoint and poster presentation sessions, students and faculty filed into the planetarium of the science building for the plenary speaker’s discussion on Molecular Machines.

Specifically, Dr. Nicholas Noinaj of Purdue University [Purdue U., Google Scholar], a Berea College alumni, presented on Targeting Membrane-embedded Molecular Machines to Combat Multi-drug Resistant Pathogens.

Dr. Noinaj’s presentation was very interesting; he discussed how his works revolve around the study of structure and functions of various membrane proteins with X-Ray crystallography and Cryo-EM. Dr. Noinaj delved into how each system is instrumental to his works, how to determine molecular structure, analyze function, and describe its potential for combating various resistant pathogens. I had learned a lot from Dr. Noinaj’s talk.

Altogether, I enjoyed the BURIS symposium a lot.

KAS Symposium

The Kentucky Academy of Sciences (KAS) Symposium [Program] invited students from Kentuckian schools, colleges, and universities to present their works in the various fields of science. The three day long event (Nov. 10 - 12) at Morehead State University features a Space Science Center, Sponsors and Exhibitor tables, various Science workshops, networking sessions, oral presentation and poster presentation sessions.

For the KAS conference, we, the students of the chemistry major, were only to submit abstracts for poster presentations. Hence, we only attended the KAS event for one day (Fri., Nov. 11) and for one session (Poster presentations).

The biology department, however, attended the KAS conference the entire day (Fri., Nov. 11), and had a few students give oral presentations early that morning while others gave poster presentations.

Altogether, due to busy class schedules by most students and professors, we only attended the Friday events of KAS, but the symposium was very interesting, nonetheless.

Anyhow, after traveling for two and half hours, we had arrived at Morehead State U. and prepared to set up our posters for the commencement of the session at 4:00p - 7:00p. 

We had an hour to prepare or to explore the available exhibitor tables. One exhibition featured space telescopes (in fact, I learned how to take quality space photos with just an iPhone!) and another showcased DNA in color. I was intrigued with each exhibition and I had even visited the posters of other presentees from various disciplines and differing schools and universities. 

In fact, some schools include Bellarmine U., Berea College, Campbellsville U., Eastern Kentucky U., Georgetown College, Morehead State U., Murray State U., U. of Kentucky, U. of Louisville, amongst various others. 

Moreover, the vast array of disciplines included Cancer, Cell & Molecular Biology, Chemistry, Computer Sciences, Ecology, Engineering, Environmental Sciences, Geography, Geology, Health Sciences, Mathematics, Microbiology, Physics/Astronomy, Physiology/Biochemistry, Psychology, Science Education, and Zoology/Botany. 

I, of course, was representing Berea College as a sophomore chemistry major, and I had submitted an abstract for Discoidin Domain Receptor 1 phosphorylates…, which was under the Health Sciences discipline.

When the three hour session began, we then had to reside by our posters for any attendees or judges wanting to hear from the speaker. Though, the first hour was largely set for judges to view the posters for their organization, comprehensibility, and significance. Essentially, can the research be followed by the poster alone and without the presence of the speaker?

Later, as the poster session continued, judges cycled back to the posters and asked presentees about their internship and research experiences. I was visited by three different judges, who all seemed intrigued by the research I was doing. This lasted for another two hours before the session concluded.

At the end of each symposium, I had attained enormous insight into the other scientific fields of study, and I had gained some experience in scientific communication and presentation. I had enjoyed each conference and, although it is no longer necessary for me to attend, I believe I will come back in following years.

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