Diversity Highlighted at Undergraduate Research Symposium

The Bayer School's 15th annual Undergraduate Research Program (URP) culminated at the end of July with a symposium featuring a lecture from Dr. S. James Gates Jr., a national figure in theoretical physics, the John S. Toll Professor of Physics at the University of Maryland and director of its Center for String and Particle Theory.

The URP is a 10-week intensive research program that integrates undergraduate students into high-level research teams. This year's students came from more than 20 institutions across the region. Their positions were funded by grants including the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

Gates, a past president of the National Society of Black Physicists, said, "Great science belongs to everyone." He delivered the symposium's keynote, Uncovering the Codes for Reality, discussing how digital codes, as seen in computer browsers, could be part of the DNA of reality.

Gates' appearance at Duquesne dovetailed with recent attention given to an increased push by the Bayer School to promote ethnic and gender diversity in sciences and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects.

Dean David Seybert said, "Given the interest in our Bayer Scholars program and other diversity initiatives, we're extremely pleased to be able to expose students and faculty to the work of an outstanding scientist and to offer students the opportunity to engage with his ideas. While this is one high point of the event, the symposium celebrates the high caliber of undergraduate science research in the Pittsburgh region. Students, science faculty and area professionals are invited to share in their discoveries."

Student research, for instance, examined:

  • The mechanisms of proteins in bacteria that cause gastroenteritis and are linked to Guillain-Barre Syndrome in humans, in an effort to develop antibiotics that will fight this infection.
  • The replacement of Europium oxide with iron in powdered hematite, which could impact gas-sensing catalysis and energy-related.
  • The role of estradiol, which is associated with the reproductive system in female salamanders. This is important because amphibians are often indicator species for environmental estrogens, which may negatively impact humans and many other species.
  • The roles of three different proteins in persistent/chronic pain.
  • Ways to predict and prevent the formation of proteins into cataracts, which impacts the vision of more than 1.4 million Americans every year.

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