A New Forum For Student Research

Harvard undergrads research everything from monkey behavior to artificial intelligence—but their research tends to be confined to isolated corners of campus.

One junior has tried to remedy this, and this Saturday he launched the Harvard Undergraduate Research Symposium (HURS) at the Science Center to an early-bird audience.

Three undergraduate speakers presented long-term projects and more than 70 others displayed posters on current research.

The mastermind—Shantanu K. Gaur ’08—decked himself out in a suit for the event, attended by both students and faculty.

Gaur, a biology concentrator in Pforzheimer House, explained that he developed HURS this past summer. At the time, he was doing research through Harvard’s Program for Research in Science and Engineering, a summer program that works to promote undergraduate research in the sciences.

“At an institution where students come to study the world, and where the world comes to study, there was really no public venue for them to display this research,” Gaur said.

According to the Harvard College Web site, those groups range from the Undergraduate Biological Sciences Society to the Harvard College Stem Cell Society, from The Harvard College Society of Black Scientists and Engineers to Women in Science at Harvard-Radcliffe.

Gaur said that he received 120 abstract submissions.

On Saturday in Science Center B, Joshua A. Kroll ’09 spoke about designing a computer program for an underwater robot that could recognize species.

“I think it’s important to have a central venue where undergrads can show their work and younger students can learn how to start research,” Kroll said.

Despite the sparse attendance when the talks began at 10 a.m. Saturday, the crowd—including Gaur’s parents—continued to grow throughout the day.

Gaur hopes to continue expanding what he called “interdisciplinary cross-talk” in undergraduate research, both through future symposiums and through a listserv that would include the presidents of science-oriented student groups.

“The future of research at Harvard is not insular and isolated, as it has been in the past,” Gaur said. “This is a great time to be an undergraduate here.”