Student Researchers Make an Elevator Pitch

Visible Thinking showcases the global reach of undergraduate research

Whether it's evaluating piano performance, understanding how African-Americans' health is affected by current events or inducing glial protrusions to change the synaptic morphology of larval fruitflies, you can be sure Duke undergrads have tried it.

Visible Thinking, the annual spring showcase of undergraduate research was held Tuesday in the hallways and crowded corners of the first two floors of the French Family Science Center. Sponsored by the Undergraduate Research Support Office and Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, the event featured well-dressed undergrads standing by their posters and engaging fellow students and faculty mentors in discussions of their findings.

The projects span the breadth of Duke's research enterprise, from Bass Connections projects on energy conservation in underwear factories to listening to dolphins breathe or watching lemurs drink. Students who had done field work in Nepal, China, Kenya, Uganda, Mexico, India, southwestern Virginia and a host of other locales brought back their data.

Mechanical engineering senior and Smart Home resident Kevin Nikolaus said he tried to incorporate every class and activity he could into his exploration of how to monitor the Alaska Pipeline with unmanned drones carrying sensors and cameras. 

Policy senior Tre' Scott did a deep dive on the North Carolina tax credits available for rehabilitating historical buildings and found a government policy that actually works better than intended.

But as with all good science, sometimes things didn't work so well. Bass Connections students John Gitau and Ryan Buxbaum found their attempt to create a solar-powered autoclave for sterilizing medical instruments fell about 20 degrees Celsius short of its goal, but at least they know what to do differently next time.

Video by Julie Schoonmaker/Office of News and Communications