Researchers compete for finalist slots in Texas Student Research Showdown

Miguel Robles

Fifteen undergraduate students are competing to advance as finalists in the Texas Student Research Showdown. The showdown is an opportunity for these students to present their research on a variety of topics, ranging from the Ugandan bridal industry to idiopathic scoliosis.  

Any current undergraduate student can vote on the research video presentations that are uploaded on the Office of Undergraduate Research website. Voting began Oct. 5 and once it ends Oct. 19, the three researchers with the most votes will advance to the showdown on Nov. 15. They will give presentations to a panel of judges, and the first-place winner will receive $1,500.

Economics junior Joy Youwakim’s research focused on sustainable agriculture. Her research revealed that sorghum production is both more economically sound and environmentally friendly than corn production. Youwakim said this allowed her to connect her passion for environmental conservation with her knowledge of economics.

“I would say that my research is pretty interdisciplinary as we have a math model for the farming plan, and I explain my results through economics,” Youwakim said. “I’m trying to show that we can feed more people too where it’s feasible and cost-efficient for everybody and good for the environment. As an undergraduate, I’m just doing what I can, trying to get better at research so in the future I won’t have to go over so many roadblocks.”

Nathan Wong, physics and philosophy fifth-year, said his goal is to be a researcher who can effectively communicate his findings to the general public, and he thinks the Showdown would be a great way to achieven this goal.

“The video presentations and the six-minute physical presentation in front of a panel is personal test for me to see whether I can bridge the gap better between ‘non-scientists’ and scientific researchers,” Wong said.

Robert Reichle, senior program coordinator for the Office of Undergraduate Research, said that by participating in research, students have the chance to find out what they are actually interested in by getting deeper exposure to a certain topic.

“When undergraduate students get involved in research, they get involved in the creation of knowledge,” Reichle said. “Sometimes students do research in a field they thought they were going into and realize the day-to-day reality in that is not interesting to them in the way they thought it would be.”