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May 7: Carnegie Mellon Shows Off Best and Brightest During Meeting of the Minds


Ken Walters

Carnegie Mellon Shows Off Best and Brightest
During Meeting of the Minds Research Symposium

PITTSBURGH—Student projects ranging from a currency reader that assists the visually impaired to an installation art piece that explores the tension between liberty and security will be on display Wednesday, May 9, during the 12th annual Meeting of the Minds undergraduate research symposium at Carnegie Mellon University. More than 400 students will show off the results of their research from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the University Center.     

The Meeting of the Minds is sponsored by Carnegie Mellon's Undergraduate Research Office, which encourages and supports undergraduates to engage in the type of research and innovation that at many institutions is the sole domain of faculty and graduate students. Many projects grow out of students' coursework in their major, while others typify Carnegie Mellon's emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration to solve real-world problems. The Undergraduate Research Initiative was the brainchild of the late Barbara Lazarus, who was Carnegie Mellon's associate provost for academic affairs.      

"This year our undergraduate research program is 17 years old," said Indira Nair, vice provost for education at Carnegie Mellon. "Widespread participation in undergraduate research, which includes creative projects, has grown to be a vehicle that brings students and faculty closer together as they participate in intellectual endeavors. This is the best kind of role modeling — to learn about collaboration and about what makes the intellectual life exciting and rewarding."    

Students from the university's six undergraduate schools will demonstrate their projects, which include methods for growing adult stem cells in the laboratory; an art installation that demonstrates changes made to the Bill of Rights over time by the federal government; a study that explores the correlation between socioeconomic status and children's language acquisition; a custom heart-rate monitor to track elephants' stress response to human contact and determine whether that contact is beneficial or detrimental; and a study that uses functional magnetic resonance imaging data to understand the brain development of adolescents, a group frequently overlooked in studies.    

"The Meeting of the Minds celebrates the true essence of Carnegie Mellon because nothing is more central or more important to the university's mission than encouraging student research," said Stephanie Wallach, director of the Undergraduate Research Office and Fellowships Resource Advising Center. "We are fortunate to have strong support from the university administration and the faculty to nurture and mentor undergraduates, both in their individual projects and in their collaborative research with faculty members.     

"What sets our Undergraduate Research Office programs apart from others is its inclusiveness — all disciplines are represented and all students are invited to participate, freshmen through seniors," Wallach added. "The Meeting of the Minds is an opportunity for our entire campus to join together and share in the wide-ranging research accomplishments of students and faculty alike."