Engaged Learning Events Presentations Undergraduate Research

Poster Session 2023: Let’s Hear from the Winners!

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?  


Saifiyah Zaki ’24 (1st place)

“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.” 


Tyler McCall ’23 (2nd place)

“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.”


Joshua Ange ’25 (3rd place)

“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!” 


Events Presentations Undergraduate Research

Research Spotlight: Poster Session Winners!

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

Engaged Learning Undergraduate Research

Cox Behavioral Lab Spotlight! – Sexual Harassment, Vaccines, and Conspiracy Theories

Dr. Benjamin Dow

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

Sarah Millett ’23

“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:

Kathryn ‘Kat’ Romano ’23

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