U of L students’ work to be showcased at annual Chinook Symposium

Students in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry will be highlighting their original research in the eighth annual Chinook Symposium, a student conference that includes a judged poster presentation.

Thirty-five students, including post-doctoral fellows, doctoral candidates, master’s and undergraduate students and a high school student, are participating this year. They have the opportunity to win big prizes, $300 for first place and $100 for second place in their category.

Students explain their research to judges at last year's Chinook Symposium.

“The prize money is drawn from a scholarship that we established seven years ago, based on donations from faculty members. Currently, it sits at $25,000. Most of us have standing donations into the fund so it’s actually a way for our department to give back to the students,” says Hans-Joachim Wieden, a professor in the department.

Corporate donors have also contributed to the scholarship and the Loren Hepler Gold Medal for PhD Research Excellence was added in 2009. Two finalists are chosen, one chemist and one biochemist, to give short lectures as a capstone to the symposium and then a winner is chosen. In 2012, two rookie prizes were added for students presenting at the conference for the first time.

Wieden invites the public to attend Friday’s symposium to get a firsthand look at the kind of research the students are conducting.

“I think it’s important to show that we have undergraduates and high school students working on projects that have direct relevance to areas such as public health or our economy,” he says.

The students’ research topics are diverse and apply to issues like cancer therapies, new antibiotics, rare diseases, agriculture and the oil industry.

“It’s a way for students to showcase and explain their work to their parents, friends and family.  It’s an opportunity for the people who don’t work with the students day-to-day to ask questions about their research. For the general public, this is an opportunity to feel the pulse of what goes on in our research groups,” says Wieden.

Posters will be installed in Markin Hall and available for public viewing Friday morning from 10 a.m. to noon. Students arrive at 1 p.m. and judging begins. At 5 p.m., the Loren Hepler medal candidates will deliver their presentations, followed by an awards ceremony.