Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning – Research

Research Spotlight: Poster Session Winners!

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:

Faith Fang ’23

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. 

Faith’s Tips: 

  • 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:

Melanie Wright ’23

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.  

Melanie’s Tips: 

  • 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. 

Info & Registration

Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning – Research

Summer Research Fellow Interview: Joshua Ange

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!

Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning – Research

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