Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning – Research Student Academic Engagement & Success

Lunch and Learn at the Summer Research Symposium

The Office of Engaged Learning invites you to attend the Summer Research Symposium this June and July. The Symposium is a weekly speaker series highlighting research by SMU faculty and invited guests. These “lunch and learn” events are open to the community.

June 12: Dr. Beth Wheaton-Páramo, Economics

June 19: Dr. Peng Tao, Chemistry

June 26: Dr. Alexander Chase, Earth Sciences

July 10: Faculty Panel: How Do I Get a Grant?

July 17: Dr. Jeanna Wieselmann, Teaching and Learning

July 24: Faculty Panel: Resilience in Research

Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning – Research Student Academic Engagement & Success

2024 Summer Research with Engaged Learning

Summer undergraduate research is off and running with the Office of Engaged Learning!

37 SMU students will be participating in the fourth annual Summer Research Intensive, working alongside 25 faculty members in the Cox School of Business, Dedman College, Dedman School of Law, Lyle School of Engineering, and Simmons School of Education and Human Development. In the SRI, students will work on faculty research projects and attend professional development workshops throughout the summer. The program also creates a community and cohort experience for student researchers to interact and collaborate.

As part of the Summer Research Intensive, OEL sponsors the Summer Research Symposium, a weekly speaker series highlighting research and innovation by SMU faculty and invited guests. The symposium series will take place Wednesdays from 12-1pm in the Hughes-Trigg Chamber with lunch provided. These events are open to the public!

2024 Summer Research Symposium Speakers
6/12: Dr. Beth Wheaton-Páramo, Economics
6/19: Dr. Peng Tao, Chemistry
6/26: Dr. Alexander Chase, Earth Sciences
7/10: Faculty Panel: How do I get a Grant?
7/17: Dr. Jeanna Wieselmann, Teaching & Learning
7/24: Faculty panel: Resilience in Research

Starting June 3, OEL and the Department of Statistics and Data Science will host the third annual Data Science for Social Good Research Experience for Undergraduates. 12 undergraduate students from across the country will attend the 8-week program to learn how to use data science tools to find solutions to economic and environmental problems affecting the Dallas community. The students will work in teams under the guidance of SMU faculty mentors Dr. Cullum Clark (Bush Institute/Economics), Dr. Anthony Petrosino (Teaching & Learning), Dr. Beth Wheaton-Páramo (Economics), and Dr. Mary Spector (Law). Stay tuned for more about the participants and their projects.

Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning – Research

Excellence in Mentoring Awards

At the Undergraduate Research Lunch on Thursday, April 18, the Office of Engaged Learning announced the 2024 Excellence in Mentoring Awards.

2024 Recipients:

Dr. Mark Allen
Senior Lecturer, Temerlin Advertising Institute (Meadows)
Mentees: Tyler Chapman ’25, Morgan Martinez ’24, Ross Yenerich ’25

Dr. Jessie Zarazaga
Clinical Associate Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering (Lyle)
Mentees: Kristen Edwards ’24, Arlo Kadane ’24

Each year, The Office of Engaged Learning honors faculty members who have provided our Engaged Learning Fellows exceptional mentoring. The criteria for selection considers the quality of the student’s nomination, the student’s accomplishments, and the faculty member’s history of successfully mentoring students in the program. The awards come with a small honorarium.

Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning – Research Student Academic Engagement & Success

NCUR 2024: Let’s Hear from the Participants!

Congrats to (L-R in group picture) Anish Senthilkumar, Karen Lin, Elisabeth Hood, Anna Su, Sadikshya Sitaula, Kevin Nguyen, Jonathan Thomas, Vivian Thai on presenting at NCUR 2024!

These eight SMU students had the incredible opportunity to present their research and creative work at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research 2024. They traveled to California State University, where they were able to interact with students and faculty from universities across the country for an exciting conference.

Here is more from a few of the students about their thoughts on the experience:

Preparing for the Conference:

Ellie Hood ’24: The best way I found to prepare for the conference was to attend the Undergraduate Poster Session! Being able to practice poster presentations on a smaller scale gave me confidence in myself and my research going into a much bigger poster session like NCUR!

Kevin Nguyen ’24: I prepared for the conference by making my poster. I made it early because I had the American Chemical Society conference a few weeks before. Thus, I had enough practice presenting my poster after that initial conference.

Vivian Thai ’25: I have been working on my project for almost 2 years prior to the conference, but to prepare specifically for NCUR, I scheduled a meeting with my PI and went over the data that I wanted to present. After that, I submitted an abstract and continued collecting leftover data until I was ready to make my poster. I had several meetings with my professor to draft my poster and I also presented at SMU’s Research & Innovation Week to prepare.

The NCUR Experience:

Ellie: To put it simply, NCUR was an intellectual feast. Not only was it fun and encouraging to share my own research, I also had the best time hearing about everyone else’s research! Every single poster and presentation that I came across was so interesting, and it’s so inspiring to me that so many undergraduates are dedicated to academia.

Kevin: My experience with the conference was incredibly rewarding. I only presented on one day, but for the other days, I went to see other SMU students’ presentations. Even then, I visited fellow chemistry undergraduates and saw their work. When I had time, I enjoyed the beach, hung out with friends, and relaxed in the hotel.

Vivian: My experience at the conference was amazing! I had the opportunity to do a poster presentation, but attendees were also able to watch other poster presentations and oral presentations. One of my favorite things about NCUR is that it’s a huge conference, so there is a large variety of topics. I listened to presentations with focuses ranging from Formula One to programming robots in agriculture. In addition, there was plenty of free time to explore the city. NCUR 2024 was hosted in Long Beach, CA and it was so much fun exploring the area and going to the beach.

Advice for Future NCUR Presenters:

Ellie: For future NCUR presenters, I say have fun with it! Don’t get in your head about whether or not your research is good enough to be at NCUR. If you’re at NCUR, you have something great to offer! Take time to see as many posters and presentations as you can, spend time with the other SMU presenters, and really soak it all in. Also, there are lots of grad schools tabling at NCUR. If you’re unsure about your post-grad plans but know that you want to pursue graduate education, definitely take the time to talk to the schools!

Kevin: For future presenters of NCUR, I recommend “selling” your presentations well. For poster presentations specifically, eye-catching titles and enthusiastic demeanors help to grab people’s attention and allow you to network with them. Also, please take some time to see other people’s work, as they could enlighten you on where you might go next in your research!

Vivian: Try to start your presentation in advance in case anything comes up. If you’re doing a poster, practice your spiel in the days leading up so you feel confident on the day of your presentation. Also, NCUR is a great opportunity for students who have never presented their research before. The environment is very welcoming and everyone is eager to hear about your research, so don’t stress too much about it!


Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning – Research Student Academic Engagement & Success

Poster Session 2024: Let’s Hear from the Winners!

SMU’s Undergraduate Poster Session for 2024 has concluded with some incredible posters and winners! The winners Elisabeth Hood, Veronica Khoury Seeling, and Gabriel Mongaras have shared with us some information about their respective posters. Read on to learn more about them! 

Can you give us a layman’s terms explanation of your project? 

Headshot of Ellie Hood
Elizabeth Hood, Factors Affecting Romantic Partner Preferences Majors: Psychology, Sociology

Elisabeth:My study investigated factors that influenced people’s attitudes and behaviors towards romantic interethnic relationships. Through surveys and interviews, we concluded that people would rather have a partner who shares their beliefs and values than have a partner who belongs to specific racial/ethnic group. This aligns with an emerging theory of interracial relationships known as dyadic cultural affinity, which places less focus on differences in the partners’ physical appearances and more focus on the compatibility of the partners’ beliefs, values, and practices.”


Veronica Khoury Seeling, The Relationship Between Executive Functioning and Immediate Memory

Veronica: “Based on researchers like Arain, we know that frontal lobe related executive function may not be fully developed until around age 25 and although the relationship between executive functioning and memory abilities has often been researched in child and older-adult populations, little research has looked to examine that relationship in college age/young adult populations. Thus, this study sought to examine the relationship between executive function and long-term episodic memory. Executive function refers to any higher order processes such as working memory, cognitive flexibility, or inhibitory control while long term episodic memory refers to the recollection of personal experiences or events. It was hypothesized that when controlling for variables like ADHD status, anxiety or depression level, age, and hours of sleep that executive function would still predict long-term episodic memory performance. After a 1 hour in lab session in which about 95 participants’ baseline executive function and long-term episodic memory performance were assessed, we took the data and ran a multiple regression controlling for those variables previously mentioned. It was found that executive function did indeed significantly predict long term episodic memory performance, suggesting that executive function is very important for general memory abilities in college age students, and future research should look towards intervention methods for those with executive dysfunction who may be struggling in school (like those with ADHD).” 

Headshot of Gabriel Mongaras
Gabriel Mongaras, Linear Transformers With Cosine Attention Majors: Computer Science, Math, Statistics

Gabriel: “ChatGPT and related GPT style models have a major problem. After every word GPT generates, it has to store that word so it can reference it later. This is a problem as each word added increases the memory quadratically in term of the sequence length – that is every word increases the memory by every other word, not just itself! This becomes intractable to handle for any reasonable conversation or sequence. This problem comes from the attention mechanism, the heart of GPT models. We fix this problem by converting the softmax function to a cosine function and stabilizing the new attention mechanism, giving linear complexity while retaining the accuracy of the old softmax attention.” 

How long have you worked on this project 

Elisabeth:This project began in Fall 2022!”  

Veronica: “The data used for this project was taken from a larger 3-day study organized by a doctoral candidate in the MAPL lab, Diane Moon. I’ve been working on that larger project since October 2023. This particular project has been something Diane Moon and I have worked on since January/February of this year.” 

Gabriel: “I have been working on this project since September of last year.” 

How did you prepare, design, and print your poster? 

Elisabeth:To prepare and design my poster, I used a template provided by the Office of Engaged Learning. You can easily find these templates on the Engaged Learning website! The Engaged Learning website also has PDFs of the previous year’s winning posters, so I also used those as a guide. To print my poster, I used the FedEx on Hillcrest.” 

Veronica: “This poster was prepared after countless meetings with Diane Moon and was designed with previous posters done by Diane and Dr. Bowen in mind. After I initially created the poster, Diane and Dr. Bowen looked over it two separate times before it was finally printed by the Psychology department.” 

Gabriel: “Since we’ve been writing a paper, most of the information and charts came from there. However, the language had to be changed to be a little less technical. Most of the information was written around the results, algorithm and charts, which made it a lot earlier to write in less technical language, but also written like a narrative: what’s the problem, how is it fixed, what’s the results. Additionally, I tried to supply as much background information on the attention mechanism as possible with the little space I could do it in.” 

What was your favorite part about presenting your poster? 

Elisabeth:My favorite part about presenting the poster was answering people’s questions! The sociology of interethnic relationships is something I’m very passionate about, and so receiving questions and being able to answer them was really inspiring; it gave me hope that this is a topic other people care about as well!” 

Veronica: “Hearing how students with ADHD or other learning disabilities felt that accommodations and future interventions were very important for their success in college and that this research validated those experiences. This made me realize that this research, although small, was still important.” 

Gabriel: “Meeting all the cool people with amazing projects and who were super passionate about them!” 

Any tips for future presenters? 

Elisabeth:Future presenters: have confidence in yourself! Imposter syndrome is very common, especially for first-time presenters, but you know more than you think you know about your research topic. Posters are a huge feat for undergrads, so just remember that you worked so hard and you deserve to feel proud of yourself! For more practical advice, definitely get a second pair of eyes on your poster before you get it printed. Furthermore, don’t wait until the last minute to print.” 

Gabriel: “Don’t be nervous about the poster presentation. It’s a lot of fun to talk about the work you’ve been doing over the past months or year(s) and most people just want to see the cool stuff you’ve been working on! Though one piece of advice is to try to think of possible loopholes or limitations in your approach as people may ask about those.” 

Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning – Research Student Academic Engagement & Success

Meadows students pursue research projects with Engaged Learning Fellowships

Discover what meaningful research projects Meadows students across four different majors are pursuing with their Engaged Learning Fellowship. Read the full article from Meadows School of the Arts.

For students interested in pursuing a research or capstone project, there is another opportunity to apply for an Engaged Learning Fellowship this spring. Find information about the fellowship and how to apply at The deadline to apply for this cycle is April 15.

Honors and Scholars Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning – Research President’s Scholars Student Academic Engagement & Success University Honors Program

Research & Innovation Week, April 1-5

Research & Innovation Week is happening next week! As part of RIW, The Office of Engaged Learning is excited to showcase the outstanding research and projects being done by SMU undergraduates across campus.

The Undergraduate Poster Session will take place Tuesday, April 2, 2-5 p.m. in the Moody Hall Atrium.  Prizes are awarded for the Top 3 posters overall, and the best poster in each school will be recognized. You can also vote for your favorite poster during the session for the Fan Favorite award. We hope you will come by to check out their posters, hear their presentations, and support these exceptional Mustangs!

The week is filled with panels, workshops and more. Visit the Research & Innovation Week website for event details and registration links.

  • Monday, April 1: Kick-off Event and Centers & Institutes Panel, 8am-12 PM
  • Tuesday, April 2: Undergraduate Poster Session, 2-5 PM
  • Wednesday, April 3: Graduate Poster Sessions, Dedman College graduate programs at 9 AM-12 PM, All other graduate programs and postdoctoral scholars at 2-5 PM
  • Thursday, April 4: Lunch & Learn: Navigating through the Research Labyrinth, 11:30AM-12:30PM
  • Thursday, April 4: Keynote Talk: Keivan Stassun, Director of the Frist Center for Autism & Innovation and Stevenson Professor of Physics & Astronomy at Vanderbilt University, 5 PM
  • Friday, April 5: SMU Faculty Innovation Day, 8 AM – 3:45 PM
  • Friday, April 5: MFA Qualifying Exhibition: “To Feel, To Mend, To Be”, 2-5PM in the Pollock Gallery


Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning – Research Student Academic Engagement & Success

Encourage undergraduate students to present at Research & Innovation Week

Research & Innovation Week is two weeks away and we’re looking for students to present at the Undergraduate Poster Session. The deadline for students to register is Monday, March 18.

Please encourage your students to participate! This is a great opportunity for undergraduates to share their research with the SMU community, and to compete for cash prizes.

The Undergraduate Poster Session will be held Tuesday, April 2 from 2-5pm in the Moody Hall Atrium. For more information about the poster session and other events, visit

Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning – Research Student Academic Engagement & Success University Honors Program

Interview with Paige Edwards, Engaged Learning Fellow

One year ago, Paige Edwards, a student studying Film and Human Rights, was able to travel to Hawai’i because of a scholarship awarded by the Human Rights and Honors Program where students learned about social justice issues. Paige connected to one of the bus drivers, Leina Fisher on this trip. Fisher is a Native Hawaiian woman working in the hospitality industry but who dreamed of starting her own business. Paige and her fellow students decided to help her out to make Makali’i – Fisher’s educational tour business catering to people interested in Hawaiians culture and history. This experience inspired her project Re-Imagine Paradise: The Impacts of the Illegal Annexation of Hawai’i and Tourism on Native Hawaiians. The project focuses on “how tourism is a consequence and a complicity of colonial and illegal annexation of Hawai’i.” 

A significant aspect of this project was that Paige had to collaborate with other students and professors. Last summer, Paige was in McNair Scholars Program SRI course which provided her with a good foundation to write research papers. Paige also leaned on other research students by running ideas by them to help improve her paper and she often contacted her faculty mentor Brad Klein when needing help. 

This project is not only a passion for Paige now but impacts her long-term goals of going to law school where she wants to focus on serving underrepresented communities. Her “interests in human rights and law have not only shaped [her] research, but also the kind of work [she] likes to produce.” For right now though, Paige is producing a documentary film called Kanaka Driven Tours which “focuses on the impacts of tourism on Native Hawaiians and will educate viewers on ethical traveling.” Make sure to keep an eye out for it to learn more about the tourism industry in Hawai’i and how there is so much more to it than what meets the eye! 

Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning – Research Student Academic Engagement & Success

New Issue of SMU JoUR Out Now!

One of the greatest opportunities that SMU has to offer its students is undergraduate research. Through programs like Big iDeas, Engaged Learning Fellowship, and others, students are encouraged and supported in the exploration of their academic passions. The Office of Engaged Learning and SMU Libraries have collaborated in creating SMU Journal of Undergraduate Research (JoUR): an evolving double-blind, peer-reviewed journal that serves as a testament to the university’s commitment to undergraduate research. 

The Journal provides a platform for students to share the products of their diverse research topics to the SMU community and the academic world.  SMU JoUR emphasizes intra- and interdisciplinary partnerships and celebrates the accomplishments of undergraduate researchers and their faculty mentors. Joshua Ange, JoUR’s Editor-in-Chief, “hopes that JoUR is able to encourage those not currently pursuing research to explore this path, and those already involved in research to share their interesting work.” 

The latest release of the SMU JoUR is Issue 1 of Volume 8, and it is out now with a variety of topics including: 

Radon Plate-out and the Effects of Airflow and Electric Charge for Dark Matter Experiments by Faith Fang (Dr. Robert Calkins, faculty mentor)

Cognitive Reappraisal is Associated with Lower Dysphoria Symptoms During the COVID-19 Pandemic by Nadia Armstrong, Diane Moon, and Dr. Holly Bowen

Identifying Barriers to Mental Health Services Utilization for Black Youth in the United States: A Qualitative Study by Emily Stein, Matthew Hutnyan, and Dr. Neely Myers

Thriving in College: International, First-Generation, and Transfer Students by Hannah Webb, Nikita Kulkarni, and Dr. Dustin Grabsch

For students that are interested in having their work included or want to pursue a research project, Joshua encourages them to reach out! As for anyone interested in reading and learning more, be sure to explore the SMU Journal of Undergraduate Research and immerse yourself in the significant work of these emerging scholars as they contribute to their respective fields!