Symposium celebrates undergraduate research

Carnegie Mellon will be holding its annual Meeting of the Minds, a campus-wide undergraduate research symposium, on Wednesday, May 9. The event will take place in the University Center from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“This is one of the few times when our campus really comes together across disciplines, and we are able to see and better understand what goes on in our campus, what intellectual creativity, artistic creativity, and new knowledge is being produced,” said Stephanie Wallach, director of the Undergraduate Research Office (URO). “It’s not just for scientists. It cuts across all disciplines.”

Over 400 students will participate and present their research in this year’s Meeting of the Minds. The event also features various competitions in which students can win cash prizes. The day will conclude with an awards ceremony.

“It’s important not to belittle the impact of these projects,” said Ran Lui, a junior Science and Humanities Scholar.

Liu will present her research relating to autism.

“Studying autism can give us insights not only into many other neurological disorders, but can also help us understand the way the normal brain works,” she said.

Liu encouraged other Carnegie Mellon students not directly involved in research, particularly first-years and sophomores, to attend the Meeting of the Minds.

“It’s an extremely valuable experience because they can see what their options are,” she said. “They can see what people are doing in other fields. It would be a really good way for them to plan ahead for what they might be interested in doing in the following years.”

Wallach agreed. “It’s very inspiring and it makes you very proud to be at Carnegie Mellon, to really see kinds of things taking place and the level of student involvement,” she said. Wallach served as a judge for the Meeting of the Minds prior to her current position at the URO.

“What’s really amazing about this event is that it’s very different at Carnegie Mellon than the way a lot of other schools do it, because we want it as a centralized symposium,” said Jessie Ramey, founding director of the URO. “A lot of places will have an engineering symposium or a computer science or an art symposium. But very few places have an undergraduate research program that supports students across the entire institution.”

Ramey worked together with Barbara Lazarus, former associate provost of Academic Affairs, to create the URO in 1989 and later designed the first Meeting of the Minds in 1996.

“We were very committed to make something that was open to everybody, and we really wanted to very much include the arts and humanities as well as the sciences and engineers,” Ramey said. “We are a research institution, and what better way to get students involved in the very heart of this place than to draw them into the actual research process as undergraduates.”

Ramey encouraged all students, faculty, and staff to attend the event, even if it’s only for a brief visit.

“It’s really exciting. This is like the academic equivalent of Carnival. It’s really the best of what Carnegie Mellon is about,” she said.