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Students display their work at GPSC showcase

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Logan Cook
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White tents filled the UA Mall on Wednesday as students eagerly shared their research at the 24th annual Graduate and Professional Student Council Showcase. 

GPSC hosts the largest research exhibition on campus annually and this year had 130 students participate.

“We think of this not just as an opportunity as a forum for research and communication, not just showcasing the student projects, but also for students to get practice presenting their research,” said Kevin Chau, Events director of the showcase.

GPSC received over 150 applications and both graduate and undergraduate students participated. Ninety graduate students and 40 undergraduates were chosen to present their work. The showcase is growing in popularity each year, according to Chau.

The projects are divided into four categories: community and society, creative expression, education and research. Research is the biggest category each year, according to Chau.

“It is the sort of catch-all category for us,” Chau said.

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She said when projects don’t fit into another category, they get assigned as research.

Graduate student Elise Bell is working toward her Ph.D. in linguistics and presented her project, titled “Perception of Welsh Vowel Contrasts by Welsh-Spanish Bilinguals in Argentina,” at the showcase.

“What makes this so interesting is that the vowels of Welsh and Spanish are so different,” Bell said. “Welsh has 13 vowels and Spanish only has five.”

Bell conducted her research with a unique population of bilingual people in Argentina last summer. She speaks both Spanish and Welsh and hopes to go to Wales this summer to collect more data for her dissertation.

Bell’s project was one of many with international ties. Countries represented at the Showcase included Bangladesh, Guatemala and Malaysia among others.

 There were also a wide range of topics covered at the showcase, spanning everything from environmental issues to dance.

Alissa Hatfield , a senior studying physiology, was one of the undergraduates presenting her work. Her project, titled “The Roles of Oxytocin and Arginine Vasopressin on Empathy-Like Behavior in Rats,” has shown that rats may have empathy, a trait previously thought to be uniquely human.

She said she hopes her research will be useful in research related to accurately medicating people with autism. She conducted her research in a UA lab.

Intermixed with students, professors and interested members of the community were 60 judges deciding the fate of the projects and distributing a mix of GPSC and other awards. According to Chau, there were a combined $18,000 in awards up for grabs.

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Students participated in the showcase for a multitude of reasons.

“I think outreach is really important,” Bell said. “Most people don’t even know that linguistics is a thing, and so it’s always fun to explain that to people for the first time.”

Chau emphasized the professional experience and practice that students gain from sharing their projects.

“Here is unique because they have to be presenting to people who might not exactly know what is in their areas,” Chau said. “I think of it as professional development and also as a celebration of research done on campus.”

Hatfield appreciated the opportunity to show her own work and also to see what older students are doing as she is currently applying to graduate school.

“I think its really cool that it’s so interdisciplinary,” Hatfield said. “Being exposed to all of the other projects is very fun.”

The large amount of somewhat lucrative awards also enticed many to participate.

“You’ve got to pay for grad school somehow,” Hatfield said.

Some projects included interactive components; for example, at Bell’s table passers by could listen to Argentinian Spanish and Welsh speakers on her computer. Almost every table was full with students explaining their projects to eager listeners.

“We have the opportunity to show the Tucson community what students actually do here,” Chau said.


Follow Tirion Morris on Twitter.


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