Students and faculty gathered Friday at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center for the inaugural Discover USC showcase, an event to present innovative research by students and faculty. There were approximately 1,000 presentations in a variety of fields by undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral and medical scholars.
The Office of the Vice President for Research established Discover USC this year to highlight research endeavors of those at USC, a Carnegie Tier 1 research institution.
“My thought was that we should try to showcase the research that is going on at every level, having a research day in which we could showcase our research. That’s why we decided to have the Discover USC,” said Dr. Prakash Nagarkatti, the vice president for research.
Dr. Lauren Clark, the research program manager for the Office of the Vice President for Research, helped spearhead the event, and commented that the event aims to bring greater awareness to all of the research done at USC.
“I think there’s two goals. One is to give students and medical scholars and postdocs a forum to present their work and share it with the USC community and the community at large,” Clark said. “The second goal would be to encourage interdisciplinary conversations, to encourage different groups to interact with each other and also to encourage the greater USC community, the Columbia community, the state of South Carolina to come and see what all is happening at the University of South Carolina outside the class room.”
A keynote address by Nobel Laureate Dr. Shuji Nakamura kicked off the day’s events. Dr. Nakamura won the Nobel Prize in physics in 2014 after developing the world’s first bright blue LED light, a discovery that led to the development of the white LEDs that we use today.
Dr. Nakamura’s research fostered the type of innovation that Dr. Nagarkatti hopes will inspire students at USC to get involved with research projects.
“You get that experience of discovering something new, which never existed before, as well as to think critically and try to solve problems, as well as all the time innovate,” Dr. Nagarkatti said.
The presentations covered a wide variety of fields of research. One student, senior public health student Kimberly Anderson, worked with a group studying the correlation between family dynamics and obesity.
“It’s Project Fit,” Anderson said of the project. “We do obesity research and my role in that was I was doing a lot of data analysis ... we do a lot of tracking calories and tracking exercise.”
Presenters like Anderson had the chance to give oral, poster and three-minute thesis presentations, culminating in an award ceremony at the end of the day. Overall, Clark said the goal of the showcase is to foster a passion for discovery and innovation.
“I’m just looking forward to watching people interact with people they might not have interacted with normally, to watch people make connections they might not have made otherwise and to meet new people and come away with new ideas and new enthusiasm for research and discovery,” Clark said.