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Students presented projects related to the Symphony of the Hawaiian Birds.

Nearly 100 University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa undergraduate students who conducted faculty-mentored research and creative work in various disciplines showcased their projects at the 2020 Summer Undergraduate Research Experience Symposium.

Normally an annual in-person event hosted by the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), this year’s first-ever virtual format still gave students an opportunity to present their work and receive feedback from peers, experts and community members.

“We believe that providing a relaxed, yet professional atmosphere allowed the presenters to gain confidence in presenting their work and broaden their perspectives by interacting with other researchers and creatives,” UROP Coordinator Seung Yang said.

The virtual symposium, held on July 31, drew more than 180 guests and 15 staff and volunteers. UROP Coordinator Jessie Chen said one unanticipated surprise was that the number of student presenters quickly surpassed numbers for the past two years, including a request from outside of UH Mānoa.

“The virtual format allowed us to expand the capacity of the event to serve UH Mānoa students off campus and to increase access to one of the few, if not the only, discipline-wide undergraduate research and creative work symposia during summer 2020 in Hawaiʻi,” Chen said.

Faculty mentored projects

Students presented on topics including developing a mobile application to engage Hawaiʻi students in computer science education, sharing music education through Symphony of the Hawaiian Birds and examining the effect of ahupuaʻa restoration efforts in Loko Iʻa o Heʻeia.

Three presentations were on projects related to COVID-19. Alan Tong and Elizabeth Swantek are working with Department of Mathematics Professor Monique Chyba to develop a model to predict COVID-19 in Hawaiʻi. Visiting student Justin Abe evaluated telehealth visits for oncology patients during COVID-19 with guidance from UH Cancer Center Assistant Professor Jared Acoba.

tina loos headshot
Tina Loos

Computer science student Tina Loos analyzed the effectiveness of online learning due to COVID-19 with Professor Martha Crosby and Associate Faculty Specialist Michael-Brian Ogawa. Loos conducted an anonymous survey of 110 students to analyze factors comparing online and face-to-face instruction.

“I chose the topic of COVID-19 because of the strong impact it has brought upon both students and professors,” Loos said. “The coronavirus caused great changes in the way that school and work are being conducted as many are now teleworking and transitioning to an online style of learning.”

Loos, who is a computer science tutor, has seen a sharp uptick in students seeking assistance during COVID-19.

“There was a significant increase in the number of students who attended tutoring online rather than in-person,” Loos said. “Students found it more desirable to seek help from the comfort of their room, and it was very easy to just log in and ask questions. At peak times, I was simultaneously helping nine students at once.”

Crosby added, “Tina enjoyed helping students in both learning environments and her ICS mentees were able to understand and complete their assignments. Both the in-person and online tutoring provided students with opportunities to interact with others.”

Support from UROP

UROP provides more than $450,000 annually to support faculty-mentored undergraduate student projects and presentations. Despite projects needing modifications due to the COVID-19 pandemic, UROP still distributed $250,000 in spring 2020.

UROP works to reach every undergraduate student on the UH Mānoa campus with the message that UROP provides a variety of opportunities, both funded and non-funded, for undergraduate students to engage in research and creative work opportunities,” UROP Director Creighton Litton said. “If we are doing our job well, then informing every undergraduate student on the UH Mānoa campus that these opportunities exist will result in more project applications.”

—By Mark Arakaki

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