More than 350 students to present physical and mathematical science research

CPMS's poster publicizing the 2013 Student Research Conference.
CPMS’s poster publicizing the 2013 Student Research Conference.

Hundreds of students will present on topics ranging from organic compounds used for cancer research to computerization of the family history indexing process at the Student Research Conference of the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences on March 7.

The opening session at 8 a.m. in Room 1102 of the Jesse Knight Building will involve a welcome from Dean Scott Sommerfeldt, introduction of corporate sponsor and College Volunteer Leadership Council participants, and an overview of the day’s schedule. The twelve-minute presentations start at 8:30 a.m. in fifty simultaneous sessions spread throughout the JKB. The conference ends at 11 a.m.

Robert Clawson is a graduate student presenting about his research of a computer system that interprets handwriting on historical document images.

“When the kind of work we are doing finds its way into indexers’ hands, and I believe that it almost certainly will, the rate at which records are indexed will increase dramatically,” Clawson said.

Zhiwei Ma is a graduate student on a team that is working with Yahu’mide A, a compound found in deep-sea slugs in the East China Sea. The compound attacks cancer cells in an unusual way, so some scientists think it could lead to a new method of killing cancer cells. It’s too scarce to be thoroughly researched, so a BYU team advised by faculty member Steven Castle is working to synthesize it.

“We’re part of the way there,” Castle said. “It’s a fairly large and complex compound … We’re one of a fairly small number of research groups in the world that can do this, but we still have a ways to go.”

Ma will be presenting about the project at the conference.

“It’s a good chance for me to share research progress (and) discuss problems met in the project,” Ma said. “It’s also a good practice for me to prepare to attend other conferences,”

His expectation is in line with the college administration’s hope for the conference. Assistant Dean Thomas Sederberg said the conference is a good way for people undecided about their major to see if they would be interested in a physical or mathematical science program. But he also pointed out how the conference will help the actual presenters.

“Communication is different than scientific research, and it improves with experience,” Sederberg said. “The conference provides a great opportunity for students to practice technical communication in a friendly environment.”

Other colleges are also showcasing student research this semester. The Religious Education Student Symposium took place last month, and the BYU English Symposium is coming up on March 15.


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