College hosting student research symposium

April 24, 2017
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Aquinas College library
The Grace Hauenstein Library. Courtesy Aquinas College

For its annual student research symposium, a local college will feature the work of students from more than a dozen disciplines.

Aquinas College will host its ninth-annual Student Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity Symposium from 4:30-6 p.m. this Wednesday.

The college will host the open house in the school’s Wege Ballroom, on the third floor of the Wege Student Center in Grand Rapids, at 1700 E. Fulton St.

Aquinas said the event highlights undergraduate research and scholarship from nearly 60 students during the past year and gives the students a chance to network with the community and build real-world skills.

Students, either working in teams or solo, will present about 40 posters at the symposium. Students will simultaneously present their findings to streamline the length of the event.

Entries in the symposium include the Mohler-Thompson and Summer Scholars grant recipients, which are the two on-campus summer research programs.

Many of the presenters are upper-level students, and some did the research as part of their senior capstone courses.


Elizabeth Jensen, coordinator of undergraduate research and associate professor of chemistry at Aquinas College, said students from all disciplines are welcome to participate.

“We have a lot of sciences — chemistry, psychology projects, etc. — but we also have a music project this year, some from communications and there’s a theology project,” she said.

“We also have two from our writing center…and presentations from philosophy, nursing and language students.”


Jensen said that for one of the research projects, a geography student and a faculty member studied the changing landscape of Kent County using public-domain satellite photos taken between 1977 and 2007.

“(They wanted) to find out how the land had changed over time, whether the agricultural lands were increasing or decreasing over time and at what rate,” she said. “A lot of people have concerns about whether housing is taking over agricultural land.”

Another student’s project was about the social effects of theater on the community.

“She looked into a concept called ‘theater for social change’ here in Grand Rapids. They looked at the way theater productions can work to close the empathy gap between individuals and groups in the community,” she said.

All of the students were required to work on their projects under the supervision of a faculty advisor.

“The faculty don’t present with the students, but some of them are there for rah-rah support," she said. "The students are in charge of designing the poster.”


Aquinas hosts the symposium for two reasons, Jensen said. To help students practice what they’re learning and to help students identify possible career paths.

“Do they want to pursue a higher degree after their bachelor’s degree? If so, they need to find out what research is like, because that will be a big part of getting a master’s degree,” she said.

For many of the students, the research will be the culmination of their undergraduate careers. Others will use it as a springboard for further research on the same topic.

“The two I described have the potential to continue and impact the local community,” Jensen said. “It could go on with the same student, be handed off to a different student or could get passed to someone in the community.”


Founded in 1886 by the Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids, Aquinas College is a Catholic liberal arts school located on a 117-acre campus in Grand Rapids.

Aquinas has more than 2,000 students and 63 academic programs.

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