Undergraduate Research Symposium Builds on Student Interests to Develop Career Skills

Mar 25, 2024

Independent college students representing 40 unique research projects gathered on the Turf at Bell Works in Holmdel on Tuesday, March 19th, to share their findings with representatives from some of New Jersey’s largest industries and research faculty from our private institutions. Topics from Recovering Precious Metals from Electronic Waste to Designing Nickel-Platinum Bimetallic Catalysts to discovering a Greener Route to the Synthesis of an Antidepressant among others were explored in independent college labs and libraries across the State. The purpose of the Symposium is to encourage STEM majors to pursue their interests, search for innovations, and develop a higher level of confidence in their abilities to work in STEM fields and contribute to local and global communities. Providing students with research opportunities is a demonstrated way to retain STEM majors.

Opening speakers shared industry outlooks for future careers based on current projects. They also provided students with insights into how they can advance their careers drawing from personal experience. Students were encouraged to talk with people, share their interests and their goals, and seek opportunities. The right connections could be the next person you meet in line at the grocery store, cutting your hair, or walking their dog. Speakers shared that the excitement over the course of a career comes not from the role for which you have all the answers but rather from the opportunity to find the answers. Students were encouraged to take the path to new ideas, demonstrate initiative and step forward ready to learn what is not yet known. Embrace working as part of a team that brings talent, experience, commitment and enthusiasm together to find solutions and bring them to the world.

The poster presentations offered students an opportunity to highlight their research while building their communications and interviewing skills, developing a peer and professional network, and finding new paths to a successful career. Over several hours, students and judges interacted through a series of presentations, questions and – at times – debates. Students defended their work with knowledge developed in the classroom and reinforced in the lab.

Students mastered their skills while immersed in the dynamic setting of Bell Works – a site known for the innovations and discoveries of Bell Labs. The “work, eat, play” metroburb introduced participants to a modern workplace designed to encourage a work-life balance. The Atrium ceilings rising four floors above the ground lifted student spirits for the day and aspirations for the future. The community taking advantage of the indoor access to shipping and activities and the employers occupying the building were exposed to the educational opportunities offered by the independent colleges in New Jersey. Each university’s name was displayed on flags surrounding the Turf.

The Annual Symposium has remained true to its goals of helping students understand the impact of a STEM career, the diverse and broad range of career opportunities for STEM graduates and providing support for choosing STEM and encouragement to stay the course through graduation. The decision-making skills, persistence in light of searching for answers, and the ability to work collaboratively are skills that help STEM majors thrive in the workplace.

To review the entire list of students and their research projects, please below for full 2024 Undergraduate Research Symposium program book.

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