The Office of Engaged Learning welcomes Kelly Chandrapal as the new Program Coordinator. Kelly comes to SMU most recently from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s art museum where she worked closely with undergraduate and graduate students in her position as the Learning Resources Coordinator. Prior to working at UNC, she implemented educational programs in museums and taught elementary and high school art in Texas public schools. Kelly earned a BFA in Visual Art Studies from The University of Texas at Austin and MA in Museum Science from Texas Tech University. She is a Texas native but new to Dallas and is looking forward to becoming a part of the SMU community!
Michael Kelly is joining the Office of Engaged Learning team this semester as the first Entrepreneurship Fellow. In this role, Michael will host the E-Launch workshop series and coach winners of the Big iDeas Pitch Contest.
Michael is the Co-Founder of Resolute Future, a software company dedicated to empower the next generation of innovators, and a former VP of investments at JPMorgan Chase where he spent 12 years with a variety of responsibilities including sales, financial planning, management, & training. He held his series 7, series 66, and insurance federal and state licenses in over 20 states during his tenure there. Michael built a $120 million business before leaving to start Resolute Future. While at JPMorgan, he was recognized multiple times for his sales accolades, served on the Diversity Board, and helped increase the book of business 60x under his leadership. Michael is also a serial Entrepreneur dating back to his first venture in 2005/06 while still in high school. He currently sits on the Venture Board for the Dallas Entrepreneur Center focused on increasing venture activity in the DFW area. He donates his time to the DEC, the Capital One accelerator program, Mass Challenge’s accelerator program, and giving speeches at Universities. He was voted by his peers North Texas’ Startup Evangelist of the year for 2023. He graduated Summa Cum Laude with his business administration and management degree from the University of Texas at Dallas.
The Office of Engaged Learning invites students to apply to their premier funding opportunities: the Engaged Learning Fellowship and the Big iDeas Pitch Contest!
The Engaged Learning Fellowship (ELF) provides up to $2500 of funding for students pursuing a capstone project in research, service, or creative inquiry. The deadline for the current cycle is September 15. Applicants submit a project proposal along with a letter of recommendation from their faculty mentor. Proposals are reviewed by a faculty panel.
The Big iDeas Pitch Contest awards up to $1000 of funding for student entrepreneurs. A brief application is due by September 27, and participants will deliver a live 90-second pitch to a panel of judges on Friday, September 29 from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
The last few weeks have been busy in the world of Undergraduate Research! Read recent posts from the Office of Engaged Learning about:
I had the pleasure of taking eight students to present their research and creative work at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research 2023. We traveled to the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where we joined about 3500 students, faculty, and staff (along with UWEC’s 1000 volunteers!) for an exciting conference.
I asked our students for their thoughts on the experience:
The NCUR experience
Shriya Siddhartha ’26: Attending NCUR was a wonderful opportunity and the experience of a lifetime. It was such a pleasure to present the results of my research to a wider audience. I enjoyed connecting with student researchers from around the world and learning about the incredible work being conducted at their respective institutes.
Vivian Thai ’25: NCUR was an incredible opportunity to network with undergraduates and professors and I’m so glad I attended NCUR for my first poster presentation. My favorite aspect was connecting with other passionate students and observing the most talented presentations I have ever seen.
Regina Nguyen ’24: When my abstract was accepted to NCUR 2023, I knew I had been given the opportunity to present the project that made me passionate about research. Indeed, I was able to share my work in a low-pressure, supportive environment.
Jonathan Thomas ’25: NCUR was such an enriching experience for me as an undergraduate researcher. Not only did I get the chance to meet with exceptional researchers from a variety of disciplines from different parts of the globe, but I also got a glimpse into the future of my own field (Civil Engineering) through the groundbreaking work being presented.
Alexandra Savu ’23: What I loved the most about NCUR is the environment I got immersed in: being surrounded by ambitious people of my age in whose you can see a burning passion for the topics they are presenting and have researched on brought me more joy and thirst for life.
Odran Fitzgerald ’24: My favorite part about going out to NCUR was meeting different people from around the country that had similar interests as my specific research but approached similar problems from different angles. It was really nice also to see environmental research, and people who were passionate about environmental research in other areas than environmental science and environmental engineering such as social science and biology.
Sandhya Srinivasa ’23: One of my favorite aspects of NCUR is learning about other individuals’ unique research areas and being able to share mine with them. In particular, in the poster sessions, you can create that 1-to-1 connection with the presenter and learn not only about their topic but about them as well. NCUR is a great first conference to go to because it fosters a community where everyone listens out of curiosity and genuinely wants to uplift each other!
Alexandra: I loved meeting people who care about the details of their work, and who also cared about other people’s projects. I felt heard and important during my presentation as I felt that everyone in the room had a good reason to be there: to fully engage in the movie in front of them. And I am sure all other presenters felt the same.
Jonathan: One of my favorite projects was from a researcher from the American University in Cairo, who was looking into pavements that could generate electricity through the kinetic energy of people walking on it. Talking with her over how she got into research and her research methodology gave me insight into how other engineers performed research and gave me a chance to “nerd out” with someone who was also deeply interested in novel construction methods.
Regina: I didn’t expect that I would make so many fast friendships formed from mutual excitement for each other’s work regardless of discipline and how rich those would make my experience in Eau Claire. Undeniably. my NCUR connections have made me more excited for a research career and I couldn’t recommend it more.
Any advice for future NCUR presenters?
Vivian: For other undergraduates attending their first conference, I would give the advice to work hard and prepare accordingly, but don’t stress out too much about it. Everyone at the conference is there to learn more about your work and you’re going to have so much fun.
Alexandra: Some advice I would give to new presenters is to have a clear schedule of what presentations they want to attend and to let themselves speak freely during their big moment, without too much “mirror readings”.
Jonathan: My biggest piece of advice to researchers who are planning to go to a large conference like NCUR is that they should try and connect with as many people as possible. It’s such a rare occurrence to be in a room with so many of the brightest undergrads in the world, and it would be a shame to leave without really getting to know anyone. Your network is your net worth as they say, and that’s no different in research.
by Hannah Green ’26
Previously we had the chance to ask the winners of this year’s poster session some questions about their participation, here is what they had to say:
1. Can you give us a layman’s terms explanation of your project?
“In this project, I investigated the relationship between chronic (trait) loneliness and momentary (state) loneliness in conjunction with other related variables such as social anxiety and depression. Findings support the “differential reactivity hypothesis” of loneliness, which states that chronically lonely individuals respond differently to the social information in their environment than non-lonely individuals. These findings have important implications for the how we conceptualize, study, and treat loneliness in the future.”
“Constrained choices, or justices for whom some political or non-legal factor limited the size of the selection pool they were drawn from, vote differently than “first picks.” I found that when presidents are constrained in their selection pool when nominating justices, those justices do indeed vote more moderately than when the choice is unconstrained.”
“Light from 14 billion years ago (called the “Cosmic Microwave Background”) gives us clues into what the early universe was like, but often, because of the massive objects in space (like galaxies and galaxy clusters), it becomes warped and distorted on its way to us. We used a “delensing” procedure to reverse the distortion on simulated data to see if we could make more precise inferences about the universe (especially for extensions of our current model of the universe). We found that we could improve the precision of inferences up to the range of 20%-30%, which will be key in deriving as much information as possible from future measurements!”
2. How long have you worked on this project?
“I have been working on this project for the entire school year.”
“I have been working on this project for about 9 months now. Last May, I received a research fellowship from the Tower Center to pursue this project. I spent first six or seven months reading through all the cases I used in my study to collect the raw data, and I am now in the “polishing and presenting” stage.”
“I’ve been working on this project since the beginning of the Fall semester through the Hamilton Scholarship.”
3. How did you prepare, design, and print your poster?
“Under the guidance of my faculty advisor and graduate student mentor, I developed a draft of short-form, easily digestible text, which I then tried to creatively fit into a “landscape” style design for the poster. I was able to print the poster through the psychology department here on campus.”
“I designed my poster using Canva. Being a business major as well as political science, I have had cause to design many slide decks and flyers throughout my time at SMU, and the many templates and design features available in Canva make creating a professional and visually aesthetic poster very easy. I had it printed through SMU’s copy central; they are absolutely amazing, and had my poster ready in only one day!”
“I worked on my poster mostly during the week before and the week of Spring Break. The design, itself, didn’t take too long (the information and graphs weren’t difficult to add), but I spent a long time figuring out the best way to explain my material. I know these aren’t everyday concepts people interact with, so it took some time to know what information to omit, how to simplify the information I do include, and how to make a clear throughline evident while still preserving the meaning of the research. It was absolutely a challenge, but I’m really happy with where it ended up!”
4. What was your favorite part about presenting your poster?
“Presenting my poster was a thrilling experience, and my favorite part was the opportunity to share my research and ideas with fellow researchers and scholars. As an undergraduate student, it was a unique chance to showcase my work to an audience and engage in stimulating discussions about my research with peers who have diverse perspectives and expertise. I was also incredibly grateful to receive recognition for my hard work and dedication, particularly as I stood among my highly talented peers from different disciplines being recognized for their incredible work as well.”
“The most rewarding part of presenting my poster was getting to share my excitement with other academics that were interested in my topic. I am incredibly passionate about political science, especially Supreme Court studies, and it’s not every day that I get to just share my knowledge with others who share a similar interest.”
“I really loved presenting to people in STEM fields other than physics. It meant they had no (or limited) background with the concepts I was dealing with, but still dealt with technical and analytical tools in their own work. It meant I had to explain concepts in a way that was both precise and accessible, and it meant they had incredibly insightful questions! It was really a joy to present to all the chemists, mathematicians, etc. that came by.”
5. Any tips for future presenters?
“To future presenters, my advice would be to start early and give yourself enough time to prepare your poster and practice your presentation. It is essential to communicate your research in a clear and concise manner, so it helps to practice explaining your work to others outside of your discipline. I would also recommend taking advantage of the opportunity to engage with peers both in and outside of the field of your research, as their feedback can help you improve your delivery and anticipate potential questions.”
“Get started early and attend the workshops! I had never designed a research poster before this experience, and I felt incredibly lost when I began working on my poster. The workshops that Dr. Neal offered gave me very strong guidance and helped me focus my ideas into the final product. Once I learned that creativity counted with these sorts of posters and not just raw data, my process was completely different than it would have been had I not sought help.”
“I think practicing your presentation is the most important part. Even if you understand your research, it’s a completely different game to try and explain what you’re doing to people who are in completely different fields. Try figuring out how to explain your work at different levels, so you’re ready for anyone who comes by!”
by Hannah Green ’26
As this year’s poster session quickly approaches, we decided that it would be a great idea to reach out to last year’s poster session winners Faith Fang and Melanie Wright! For those who don’t know, the Research and Innovation Week Undergraduate Poster Session is an event where research from various departments are displayed on posters created by students. Now seniors, Faith and Melanie were able to give us a student’s perspective on the event.
Dark Matter Detection:
Studying Mechanical Engineering and Violin, Faith Fang was the first-place winner of the poster session last year! As a Grand Challenge Scholar, she has been conducting research with the SuperCDMS Lab under Dr. Jodi Cooley and Dr. Robert Calkins of the Physics department for two years and was excited to share her research. Her research focuses on reducing the amount of radon that sticks to dark matter detectors. Radon interferes with the precision of detecting dark matter particles, due to their identical emittance of energy. Leading up to the presentation, Faith identified three main steps. Step One was working with her research team to collect suitable data from the experiment. Step Two involved making the poster, which took a lot of work considering the amount of information that needed to be summarized and how the results applied to the overall experiment. Finally, Step Three involved the finishing touches which included ensuring presentability and approachability. Faith wanted to “make it as accessible as I could because I knew that there were people of all different fields [attending].” One important thing that Faith addressed is making sure you have an in-depth understanding of what you are presenting in order to answer questions with accurate information.
- Have your research professor or mentor test your presentation readiness by having them ask you challenging questions.
- Make sure your poster is visually pleasing and easy to follow. That way, even if you’re not present at the poster stand, attendees can still read and understand it.
- Be honest when you’re not entirely sure about how to most accurately answer a question.
New Mexican Archeology:
Studying Anthropology with an emphasis on Archeology, Melanie Wright placed second in the poster session! Her research from last year focused on a pottery assemblage from New Mexico. Melanie decided to participate in the poster session because she felt it would be a great opportunity to frequently communicate her research. The overall new experience of making a poster as well as seeing what other students were researching across campus also sold her. She started preparing for the session one month in advance and recalled having to overcome logistical hurdles due to her relatively “out of the box” poster design. On the day of the event Melanie “started off pretty nervous, especially when the judges came around,” but everything worked out! People were very receptive to Melanie’s poster, which she attributes to the included visuals. She would describe the environment of the event as positively engaged amongst both the students presenting and attendees.
- Wear comfortable shoes as you could find yourself standing for a couple of hours.
- Add attractive visuals to your poster, for example adding a colorful and creative picture.
- Have a 1-minute, 3-minute, and 5-minute version of your presentation so you can interchange between them to “gauge people’s interest when they are coming up to you,” determining which version communicates most effectively.
If you are interested in participating and potentially winning this year’s poster session, registration closes on March 10th! Prizes will be awarded to the top three posters overall, as well as recognition for the best poster in each department. The event will be held in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Ballroom on March 21st from 2-5pm.
by Hannah Green ’26
Joshua Ange, Class Of ’25, is a 2022-23 Summer Research Fellow.
Tell me about yourself!
Sure! My name is Joshua Ange, I’m a Sophomore (Class of 2025) studying Physics and English with minors in mathematics and computer science. In regards to fun facts, I was born in New York, really enjoy theatre (I did it a lot in high school, but haven’t been able to do much since), and like rock climbing.
What did you do during your summer research? Who did you work with and overall, how was it?
During my summer research, I worked with Dr. Robert Calkins. I was continuing research I began in the Spring semester in Professor Jodi Cooley’s lab as part of the SuperCDMS SNOLAB collaboration, which mainly deals with dark matter detectors.
Dark matter detectors are placed deep underground to be isolated from background and other noise. But underground, there is radon present in the air that can cause “plate-out,” essentially meaning it decays into lead and accumulates on nearby surfaces, which leads to the production of alpha particles. And these alpha particles can act a bit like “false positives” for dark matter detectors. So my research concerned the readings of these alpha particles.
Essentially, an SMU grad student went down and measured pieces of polyethylene plastic (which are used as shielding within the detectors) and found that the rate of accumulation of lead wildly varied between pieces, even if they were in the same location. It was hypothesized that this may be due to the charge embedded within the plastic, so that was the phenomenon we were attempting to find and quantify. Overall, we found some pretty solid relationships and were able to (somewhat) simulate the effects, but there’s still more analysis needed in order to fully be able to correct for the embedded charge.
What was your favorite part during your research? What was the most memorable part for you?
I think one of my favorite parts of the research was just that it was a collaborative, real process. Unlike in class, where you’re learning from the professor trying to find the right (pre-determined) answer, I really loved the collaborative and “working-together” problem-solving aspect of the work we were doing. As we came towards the end of the research and began assembling a paper and presentations, it was very nice to be able to show results and findings that were “ours,” if that makes sense. And then a highlight, as well, was being able to present at the Fall 2022 Texas Section American Physical Society conference. I loved meeting other students and being able to share the work I was doing with people outside of SMU!
What would you say to anyone wanting to start getting involved with research? How would you advise them to go about it?
Honestly, the biggest thing I would say is to just go for it! I think a lot of the time, people are a bit afraid of starting research because they don’t know where to start / how to begin, but I don’t think that gets resolved until you actually start. For me, I just got involved by emailing my professor, learning about the project, and getting started from there. It was of course a bit scary to enter a new environment like this, but also so exciting to be in the research world!
Joshua was lead author on the article “Characterization of XIA UltraLo-1800 response to measuring charged samples,” which was recently published in Journal of Instrumentation 18 P01027. Congrats to Joshua, Dr. Robert Calkins, and Andrew Posada ’17!
by Hannah Green ’26
Brynn Price, Class of ’23, is a 2022-23 Summer Research Fellow.
Tell me about yourself!
My name is Brynn Price, and I’m from Dallas and will be graduating next fall. At SMU, I am on the SMU Libraries Student Advisory Board (and have done so since my first year) and love serving the Mustang community in this role. I am also a 2022-23 Summer Research Fellow and am especially grateful for Engaged Learning’s support as I have pursued research on campus (shoutout Dr. Neal and Dr. Ebinger!). This semester, I am excited to continue to serve Dr. Wieselmann and her NSF-funded research project (which is described here!).
What did you do during your summer research? Who did you work with-overall, how was it?
Last summer, I worked with Dr. Jeanna Wieselmann and Marc Sager (a PhD student at Simmons). We undertook a study that examined how well teacher-developed curriculum units incorporated integrated STEM instruction and PBI (project-based instruction). After completing the study, we wrote the manuscript, then submitted it to Education Sciences (where it was published here!). And while I have always loved writing, I had never written anything for a manuscript that would be submitted to an academic journal—but even so, Dr. Wieselmann and Marc were so encouraging during the process. I learned a lot and am appreciative of all they taught me.
What was your favorite part during your research? What was the most memorable part for you?
Actually, my favorite part ended up being the writing of the findings. I do love to write, and it was rewarding to be able to articulate new knowledge from the study in a format that is now shared with others—and hopefully, it will prove useful to those who read on it. Also, likely a result of my love for libraries, I enjoyed locating literature that was used in our manuscript (e.g., in the lit. review/discussion sections). It was cool to see the full research process and see how pre-existing knowledge can facilitate the creation of new knowledge. And lastly, I absolutely loved working with Dr. Wieselmann and Marc. They are amazing, intelligent people! From this experience, I will of course remember how interesting it was to experience the research process from start to finish—but even more, I will remember my time learning from and working with my research team. I am so thankful for them and for Engaged Learning, as well.
What would you say to someone wanting to pursue this program and research? What are things you think people should know before going into this program?
Even if you’re not sure that you want to pursue research, I highly recommend checking out the Summer Research Intensive. The program offers students a unique insight into the world of research and scholarship (and into the professional lives of professors)—it’s an experience that cannot be fully replicated in the university classroom. For me, the program helped me to better understand the value of research/scholarship, as well as how—and why—to engage with it; it was immensely helpful to experience the research process myself. Consequently, I have been able to transfer these skills and understandings to my courses, reaffirming that this program is truly characterized by “engaged learning.” But even if you are not interested in academic research, the lessons learned from the SRI can be transferred to other settings, as the research process is used all the time and all around. It is always important to know how to ask good questions; how to engage with the abundance of information that surrounds us; and, notably, how to work with a team to find answers to questions. The Research Intensive helped me develop myself in a number of ways, but it most importantly taught me that there’s so much that I can learn from and with the people around me. Engaged Learning works hard to not only support individual students, but also to connect them to the knowledgeable community around them—I am grateful for this support.
by Hannah Green ’26
The Cox Behavioral Lab “exists to support the research of the management department in our endeavors to better understand organizations and the people who work in them.”
Those are the words of Professor of Practice in Management and Organizations, Dr. Benjamin Dow. The research lab is part of the Management and Organizations department in the Cox School of Business and specializes in the areas of leadership, culture and conspiracy theories.
For those unaware of what the Cox Behavioral Lab does, the professor provides a quick summary:
According to Dr. Dow, “We study people and organizations, and our goal is something along the lines of how we can make organizational life better for people and make organizations function better. . . the Behavioral Lab supports our research on that by allowing us to ask questions or have activities with students, letting us learn how people operate in organizational environments.”
Researching Vaccine Intentions
Current projects involve vaccine intentions and negotiations. The goal is understanding how “the ways we see ourselves in relationship to others affects the relationship between the belief in conspiracy theories and the actions that we take.”
Many of the processes and methods conducted by the lab are online and survey-based due to the renovation of the Cox School of Business. Online activities may include game participation and interacting with people through online chats. One-on-one interactions such as mock negotiations or small group activities, where people are placed in a group to talk to each other and accomplish tasks such as creating a list of creative ideas, also aid in data collection.
Researching Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
“The more we can understand about how people react to sexual harassment in the workplace, the better that we can prepare people to continue to make work places a safe space for women and bolster equality in a greater sense.”
Those are the words of Undergraduate Research Assistant Sarah Millet ’23. She spoke about her experience working in the lab now and during the height of the pandemic. She has seen an increase of trust for online data collected from surveys and connections with research institutions.
Sarah is interested to see how people react to witnessing a case of sexual harassment. To study this, she uses a simple game in which all players are assumed to be real people.
To Sarah, this research project is important because “so much progress has been made in women’s rights in the office space, but I think that sexual harassment is something that still acutely impacts women more than men.” She emphasizes that workplaces can be improved for women when we understand not only about the person who harasses, but also those around them. Co-workers can step in and cultivate change.
The Lab Environment
We were also given a statement by Undergraduate Research Assistant Kathryn Romano ’23 regarding the lab’s work environment:
“Working with Dr. Dow has been incredibly enriching. Not only is he understanding and encouraging, he also wants to include all of the assistants in the research he’s doing. I think I can speak for all of my fellow research assistants when I say working in the lab has been interesting and not in the least bit boring.”
In the future, Dr. Dow hopes to make the process of researching a more engaging experience by allowing assistants to design their own studies and learn the ins and outs of conducting it.
If you would like to get involved with the lab as an undergraduate researcher, please contact Dr. Dow at firstname.lastname@example.org.