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Home | News | Undergraduate Research Talent on Display at 2019 COURI Summer Symposium
COURI Symposium at the UGLC, Saturday, August 3, 2019, in El Paso, Texas. Photo by Ivan Pierre Aguirre/UTEP Communications

Undergraduate Research Talent on Display at 2019 COURI Summer Symposium

Josue Martinez, a sophomore computer engineering major who was a visiting student at The University of Texas at El Paso in summer 2019, has a very clear idea of what he would tell any fellow undergraduate student who is pondering a research experience.

“Apply, apply for everything, without any fears,” Martinez said. He is one of more than 170 undergraduate researchers from a variety of disciplines who presented and discussed their work with judges, faculty members, peers and the community during the 2019 Campus Office of Undergraduate Research Initiatives (COURI) Summer Symposium.

The event, which is now a tradition and one of two COURI symposia held every year, took place on Aug. 3, 2019, in the lobby of the Undergraduate Learning Center. Projects featuring art, philosophy, science and engineering were just some of the research works on display.

The authors and presenters included UTEP students and international undergraduate researchers from China, Colombia, Guatemala and several others.

“This has been another exciting summer for undergraduate students conducting research on our campus alongside their teams of faculty, post-docs and graduate student mentors,” said COURI Director Lourdes Echegoyen, Ph.D. “The richness and variety of projects is a testament to UTEP’s commitment to student research training and a validation of our R1 (top tier research university) status.”

Martinez, the computer engineering major, is a student from Universidad Ana G. Méndez, Recinto de Gurabo, in Puerto Rico, who spent the summer at UTEP as part of a research-focused exchange program. At the summer symposium, he presented the results of a project to create software that allows an unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone, to operate fully autonomously within a confined space. The project was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, and its second major breakthrough, Martinez said, is that the software his team developed allows a drone to operate without a GPS signal.

Jessica Barnes, a junior biological sciences major at UTEP, was also a presenter at the symposium. She is part of a team working on an ongoing project that seeks to shed light on some of the underlying mechanisms of Type 2 diabetes. She echoed Martinez’s advice to fellow undergraduates about being fearless in the pursuit of a research experience, but added that perseverance is equally important.

“I was lucky enough to find a lab that I fell in love with right away, but it’s not going to happen that way for everybody,” Barnes said. “So, I would tell them that they have to go out there and look, they have to put themselves out there and market themselves.”

Oscar Najera, a junior psychology major at UTEP, is part of a group of students who are so perseverant that they’ve been able to participate in and present multiple research projects at past COURI symposia.

This summer, Najera presented his early findings in a project that seeks to determine if speakers of two languages can use a memorization technique known as paired associative learning more successfully than monolingual speakers. While there was still much work to be done before the project could yield any actionable results, Najera said he was convinced that he was already reaping the benefits of his involvement in the process.

“It really cements that this is something I want to do for the rest of my life,” Najera said. “I started out wanting to be a psychiatrist, as most psychology majors do, but then I found out about research. I love the creative process; I love analyzing the different mistakes you make in order to get a more accurate reading of whatever it is you’re trying to measure. So, it’s something that takes a lot of thought and creativity, and hopefully I can continue with it.”

For more information about COURI and its symposia, visit couri.utep.edu.

Author: Victor H. Arreola – UTEP Communications

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