Bradon Burd is one of nearly 150 University of Nevada, Reno undergraduate researchers preparing for Wolf Pack Discoveries, a public showcase of student research, creative and scholarly work on April 25, 2022.
With the mentorship of Ben Weigler, campus veterinarian and director of Animal Resources at the University, Burd is conducting research related to sterilization of laboratory equipment. The project has taken him to animal care settings and the Nevada State Public Health Lab. Of the experience and his mentor, Burd – a biochemistry major in the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources – said, “My mentor is always supportive and very easy to go to for guidance or when things go wrong.”
From Weigler’s perspective, Burd is taking on an important scientific question. Burd said this mentorship and experience will help him achieve future career goals as he now has worked in a lab and learned lab procedures while completing research and research writing.
As many undergraduate researchers like Burd continue their projects, they also prepare to ultimately present their research at Wolf Pack Discoveries. This collaborative event was first held in Fall 2021 and combines several poster presentations, previously held separately, into one symposium.
Collaborators and commitment
Wolf Pack Discoveries highlights student projects supported through the University’s Associated Students of the University of Nevada (ASUN), Career Explorations: Women in STEM, Honors College, McNair Scholars Program, Nevada Career Studio, Office of Service-Learning & Community Engagement, Undergraduate Research and University Libraries. This partnership of programs and resources makes a statement about the strong and widely held commitment to extend a variety of experiences – curricular, co-curricular and experiential – to undergraduate students across all disciplines.
For example, Wolf Pack Discoveries includes presentations of students’ service-learning projects.
“Service-learning is an excellent opportunity for students to participate in service activities with the community to gain further understanding of course content, a broader appreciation for their field of study, and an enhanced sense of personal values and civic responsibility,” said Abbey Grimmer, coordinator of the University’s Office of Service-Learning & Civic Engagement.
Another partner is the Career Studio’s Career Exploration: Women-in-STEM (CE:WIS) program, which Tracey Howard, a community volunteer who supports the program, describes as being “thrilled to partner with Wolf Pack Discoveries.”
“CE:WIS represents a community effort to engage and retain women in STEM fields here in Northern Nevada,” said Howard, who is STEM program director for the Nevada Governor’s Office of Science, Innovation and Technology. “It is a pleasure to celebrate and recognize UNR student growth and commitment to learning at the Wolf Pack Discoveries event, including those students who participated in the CE:WIS Match Program this spring.”
Burd’s project is an example of experiences supported by the office of Undergraduate Research, part of Research & Innovation. Another student preparing to present and supported by Undergraduate Research is Sara Perez, whose case-study project “aims to document health advocacy efforts in Mexico used to counter tobacco industry interference and help the government regulate these products to prevent the spread of a potential new epidemic.”
“I am very thankful for the opportunity Undergraduate Research has provided me, and I plan to continue research in grad school,” said Perez.
Faculty mentors are the foundation
Beyond the support through various University programs, faculty members mentor students in their research projects.
“I was an undergraduate research student at Colorado State University working on an ecologically relevant project – that study was published in a scientific journal and it helped me gain essential skills for success through graduate school and throughout my career as a veterinarian-scientist,” said Weigler, who has devoted his career to science and the scientific-method to advance society and help animals and people alike. “I want to help students gain similar experiences for their own successes, feelings of accomplishment and career opportunities.”
Talaya Flicop, undergraduate researcher in the College of Science, first worked with Sarah Mitchell, faculty member in the College of Education & Human Development. That experience, supported by a Pack Research Experience Program award from Undergraduate Research, left Flicop encouraged to continue working with Mitchell into Spring 2022, and now they're looking beyond.
“I greatly enjoy the research process and would like to continue working on projects through my undergraduate career,” they said.
Molly Willoughby, an Honors College researcher in the Fall 2021 semester, offered another perspective.
“I liked that I was able to reach out to a faculty member with whom I had previously had classes and who has a lot of experience with mentoring students, even if she has not participated in the Honors mentoring process before.”
'You’ll be happy you did’
Undergraduate Research provides financial awards and travel support for hundreds of student researchers to do research in fields of interest. A variety of programs create opportunities including the Nevada Undergraduate Research Awards, the Community-Based Research Experience program which pairs students with agencies and nonprofits to answer community-based questions, and the Pack Research Experience Program which directly benefits underrepresented first- and second-year students and extends pay to work on a research or creative project.
Tanya Kelley, director of Undergraduate Research, provides support and advice and is happy to answer questions student researchers may have. Students can attend her office hours, every Wednesday from 2-3 p.m. in the Applied Research Facility in room 302.
“I strongly encourage students to take advantage of these programs while you are here,” Weigler exclaimed. “You’ll be happy you did.”
Wolf Pack Discoveries takes place April 25, 2022, 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the Joe Crowley Student Union.
Sydney Fischer, Reynolds School of Journalism student and intern in the office of Undergraduate Research, was the primary writer of this story.