Finding out whether you have bladder or kidney cancer by testing your breath, creating a bird-watcher app to track endangered and threatened birds for scientists, and how Mars could be engineered to sustain human life are among some of the topics students have investigated and will present during Research Week at UCF.

Today through Friday undergraduate and graduates students will have the opportunity to find out what it takes to put together a research project, how to present findings, tips for getting the general public interested in their work and for getting projects funded. The workshops are being offered free in the Student Union.

On Tuesday, April 1, graduate students will present their work to faculty judges and the public. The 255 students are competing for cash prizes. The best projects in 20 divisions will earn $800 each.

On Thursday, April 3, more than 250 undergraduate students will present their work with a poster session in the Pegasus Ballroom.

The goal of the week is three-fold:

  • to help undergraduate investigators get started in research
  • to give graduate students practical skills they will need
  • to share the research work with the general public
  • Afif Abu-Hanna, a biomedical sciences major, is excited about sharing his research about nanosensors and the way they could potentially be used to detect biomarkers for cancer using breath instead of a blood sample. He sat in on the first workshop offered today – Communicating Your Research.

    “It was definitely a benefit,” Abu-Hanna said. “What really stuck with me is what he said about being personable and telling people a story about why I did this research. Don’t think I would have thought of that on my own.”

    Tim Brown, a communications professor and former television reporter, kicked off the week of events by imploring young scientists to communicate their work in a way “regular people,” can understand.

    “We are all human,” he told students at the Student Union. “Connect with your audience as people first.”

    That means scientists need to reflect on why they do what they do and share that passion during each presentation, whether it be at a conference or during a poster presentation.

    “This is the Zen part of communicating,” Brown said. “You need to reflect on what drives you.”

    Other tips: Use clear language and a conversational tone.

    One of the workshops aimed for graduate students is about grant writing and the review process. The workshops are different because they are geared toward the experience level of each group.

    Graduate students conduct original-in depth, large scope research over two to four years. By the time they are presenting, they are ready to participate as colleagues in the scholarly community. Undergraduate students are just beginning their foray into research and conduct focused, smaller scope research over short duration. They are exploring the possibility of a research career and preparing themselves to be competitive for admission to graduate schools, said Ross Hinkle, interim vice provost of graduate studies.

    For more information about the research topics, a schedule of workshops and presentations click here.