Last year, student Burdley Colas presented for the first time at the Showcase of Undergraduate Research (SURE), which is part of UCF Student Research Week.

The senior said he did it because he wanted to gain skills that he hopes will make him a better candidate for graduate school. He got so much out of the experience, that this year he’s participating again. But this time it means much more to him.

He said the showcase will give him the opportunity to show his family how far he’s come in his academic career and to demonstrate to his younger siblings what it takes to succeed.

“I am the first generation of my family to go to college in the United States,” Colas said. “My mother is my compass. She speaks to me often about the importance of inspiring my siblings as their older brother. My father, at one time, was a professor and a school principal. I hope someday to go back to Haiti and make a difference in people’s lives, as he did. He has inspired me to push myself and to persevere in pursuing my dreams.”

This year’s Student Research Week is April 4-7 and will provide professional development workshops and forums for undergraduate and graduate students. Colas will be one of about 450 students at the SURE presentations that begin at 1 p.m. April 7 in the Pegasus Ballroom in the Student Union. The event is free and open to the public.

“Presenting at the showcase gives students an important opportunity to communicate their research, both to attendees in their field of work and to the general public,” said Aubrey Kuperman, coordinator of the Office of Undergraduate Research.

Colas is an undergraduate research assistant in the College of Optics & Photonics’ Fiber Optics Lab, where he studies the applications of light coursing through glass strands the thickness of a human hair.

Preparing for the showcase gave Colas the opportunity to spend time working with his mentors — professor Axel Schülzgen and doctoral candidate Amy Van Newkirk. The individual attention enabled him to gain real-world insights he deems critical to his future growth.

“A lot of students just go to class and then don’t take the time to know their professors,” Colas said. “Developing a relationship with a professor helps you understand what they do, and then you get to ask them questions that will help you going forward, such as: What does it take to get to grad school? How did you get where you are today?”

Eventually Colas wants to get a job in research and development, and he knows communicating his work is important. SURE helps him hone those skills. Last year he earned an honorable mention for his presentation. This year he hopes to do better.

“I can’t wait,” Colas said. “I’m ready.”

The week kicks off April 4 with a day of workshops, and on April 5-6 students from all disciplines across campus will share their research with the UCF community. Both events will be in the Student Union Pegasus Ballroom. Student presenters will share their work and compete for cash awards for best in category presentations.

For details about the week and a schedule, visit