By Kristen Mitchell
George Washington University’s student researchers had the opportunity to present their work at the 2022 Research Showcase last week—the culmination of months, and in some cases years, of data collection and analysis.
Approximately 400 undergraduate, graduate and professional students across disciplines participated in the annual event, coordinated by the Office of the Vice Provost for Research (OVPR). Categorized by discipline, students presented their work in front of a panel of judges, vying for honors and special prizes.
“Research Showcase is an important opportunity to come together and celebrate the innovation and creativity of our students,” said Vice Provost for Research Pamela Norris. “Alongside world-class mentors, our students are conducting impressive research and scholarship. Based on this year’s submissions and poster presentations alone, GW’s community has a lot to be proud of.”
Senior Chloe Shaw received the top undergraduate award in biological sciences for her research on bald sea urchin disease and recovery. Outbreaks of the disease, characterized by surface discoloration and loss of appendages, have been reported worldwide. She first got involved in professor L. Courtney Smith’s lab as a first-year student, where she fed and cleaned the sea urchins. From there, she was offered the opportunity to pursue hands-on research and later received a Luther Rice Undergraduate Research Fellowship.
“It slowly developed over time, but it was something I was really interested in, and I really wanted to do,” she said. “I said yes to every opportunity I was given.”
Shaw’s research formed the basis of her honors thesis, and she plans to continue building on her body of work as a master’s student at GW in the fall. Wrapping up her undergraduate studies, she’s reflecting on how much she’s grown and learned over the past couple of years. The showcase was an exciting way to show others what she’s been working on in the lab, she said.
Simon Saliby, a senior majoring in German with a minor in sustainability, received a top honor in the undergraduate humanities category for his research characterizing the role of German citizens and cooperatives in the social acceptance of the country’s energy transition. As a Luther Rice Undergraduate Research fellow, Saliby enjoyed exploring the ways individuals, not just government, can advance sustainability priorities.
Saliby said it was a challenge to overcome the preconceived ideas he had about research as he embarked on this work. At times he felt that his work wasn’t scientific enough because it was not tied to a formula or numbers. Ultimately, he embraced the concept that research looks different in every field.
“Humanities is about telling a story about something important, and that's how I view my research,” he said. “I wanted to tell the story of citizens in Germany and environmentalists in Germany. I really think research is something that anyone can do as long as they pick something they're passionate about, and they stay dedicated to it.”
Saliby said he participated in various Research Showcase workshops held this semester to aid students as they prepared for the showcase, which helped him feel confident going into his presentation.
Students across many diverse fields of study used their research to explore the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Amalis Cordova Mustafa, a senior majoring in public health and sociology, received the top undergraduate award in one of the two undergraduate public health sessions for her research on the risk of eviction and poor mental health outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic. She pursued this research as part of her sociology senior seminar.
She has long been passionate about the connections between housing and health—links that have become increasingly clear during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Despite a lot of federal help and protections to protect people from evictions, millions and thousands of households were still facing evictions and poor mental health outcomes,” she said. “My biggest takeaway is that more things need to be done in the long-term to address these problems, and not just reacting to emergencies.”
Cordova Mustafa will continue her GW education as a health policy master’s student in the fall.
Chibuzo Efuribe, a doctor of nursing practice student in the GW School of Nursing, was awarded first place for the school’s graduate and professional student research category. Her research evaluated the effects of a web-based educational intervention for improving depression knowledge and help-seeking behavior among women in a faith-based organization.
In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Efuribe found herself having conversations with fellow nurses, family and friends struggling with symptoms of depression but not recognizing the signs. She realized she wanted to do more to help those suffering enhance their knowledge on depression and reduce stigma, making it easier to ask for help.
“Now out of this research process, I am thinking about other things I want to do,” she said. “How I want to expand mental health platforms and reach out to more communities.”
Efuribe, who will graduate in May, said pursuing a research question and presenting her work gave her a fulfilling confidence boost as she wraps up her time at GW. She encouraged other students to pursue research opportunities and enjoy the moment as well.
“You can be good, but if you don't participate, you'll never know,” she said.
The Research Showcase also offered awards in several special prize categories. New prizes were introduced this year include the CTSI-CN Prize for Promoting Health Equity in Clinical and Translational Research sponsored by the Clinical and Translational Science Institute at Children's National Hospital, the Humanities Center Research Prize sponsored by the GW Humanities Center, and three awards sponsored by the GW Cancer Center.
GW alumni and career coaches discussed their careers in research as part of an April 11 panel kicking off the week’s events. The panel event was brought together by the Office of Alumni Relations, the Center for Career Services, OVPR, and the GW Research Showcase planning committee. They shared their experiences and insights working in research across industries and sectors and gave advice to students and alumni interested in pursuing research careers, or those already working in the field.