Celebration of Research Event Salutes Faculty and Student Success
A researcher shares her work at the annual Celebration of Research, held in-person for the first time in two years. Photo: Robert C. Bain
From digital art installations to wildfire tornadoes to eco-friendly chemical reactions, San José State University honored an array of research, scholarship and creative activity on April 14.
The annual Celebration of Research event, held by the university’s Division of Research and Innovation at the SJSU Diaz Compean Student Union Ballroom, drew more than 200 attendees. This was the first in-person celebration since the beginning of the pandemic, and the gathering allowed students and faculty to share their ongoing projects with one another through conversations, poster presentations and formal recognition.
“Through the great research work of our faculty and students, we are able to contribute to solving today’s problems and mitigating tomorrow’s challenges alongside our industry and community partners,” said Mohamed Abousalem, vice president for Research and Innovation, as he welcomed attendees.
“This celebration is our way of demonstrating our unique ability as the public university of Silicon Valley to do critical research work on important topics and develop creative scholarship in areas that touch our lives.”
Rhonda Holberton, assistant professor of digital media art; and Madalyn Radlauer, assistant professor of chemistry; were both presented with the 2021 SJSU Research Foundation Early Career Investigator Award (ECIA) — one of the most prestigious honors bestowed by the university. The ECIA recognizes tenure-track faculty members who have excelled in research, scholarship and creative activity at an early point in their careers.
Radlauer investigates ways to make certain chemical reactions more environmentally friendly. She studies chemical reactions driven by catalysts, in which each catalyst molecule can do the reaction hundreds or thousands of times.
“It’s about being selective and energy efficient in a chemical reaction,” explained Radlauer in a video highlighting her work, which was shown at the event. “Any time you’re energy efficient, that’s more green, more environmentally friendly, and anytime you’re selective, that means you’re not having to purify away things that you don’t want.
“The process of research is really slow,” Radlauer said. “But the process of learning through research can be really fast. I involve students in the work so they can learn how to be scientists and take it to the next stage.”
Holberton’s work, which has been exhibited around the globe, including in Australia, Switzerland and in the U.S., “focuses on digital tools and digital technologies and the ways they have material impacts in our physical experience,” she shared in a video about her research.
In her classes, students gain artistic and digital skills and are often able to gain real-world experience by partnering with outside institutions to create exhibits and contribute to other projects.
“I love thinking that the research and the work I’m doing with my students is having an impact outside our department. [Receiving the ECIA] really recognizes the work of the student and the impact they have in their communities.”
SJSU students took part in two research-based competitions — the 2022 SJSU Grad Slam, which was held earlier that day, and the 2022 SJSU Student Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity (RSCA) Competition. The winners were announced during the event.
In a Grad Slam competition, graduate students condense the theses of their research projects into engaging, three-minute presentations, which must be understandable by a lay audience. Prizes are awarded based on the success of their presentations.
Eight finalists from the RSCA Competition will go on to compete in the 36th annual CSU Student Research Competition, which will be held April 29 and 30 and hosted by San Francisco State University. These students and their research include:
- Roberto Campbell, ’19 BS, ’22 MS Computer Engineering: “Reinforcement Learning for Defense of Software Defined Networks Using MARL and Self-Play.”
- Dani Heinonen, ’21 Psychology: “An Evaluation of Student Perceptions of Campus Climate at San José State University.”
- Kristina Smith, ’21 Psychology and Child and Adolescent Development: “Examining Social Media as a Context for Positive Youth Development During COVID.”
- Justise Wattree, ’23 Humanities: “The Two-Front War: Self Help and Black Health Activism During the Spanish Flu, HIV/AIDS, and COVID-19.”
- Amarachi Aladi, ’25 Economics; Dang Minh Nhu Nguyen, ’22 Applied Mathematics; Evelyn Tran, ’25 Undeclared; Quyen Nhi Tran, ’22 Applied Mathematics: “Retrospective Literature Review on Racial Disparities Pre-COVID and During COVID-19 Pandemic.”
In addition to research, creativity in the arts was also celebrated. Students performed a scene previewing the “The Grouch: A Modern Version of Le Misanthrope,” which is presented by the College of Humanities and the Arts and will be showing at the Hammer Theater April 22–30.
Stephen Perez, interim president of the university, applauded students for their research, innovation, scholarship and creativity.
The opportunity to pursue these endeavors “supports the success of our students, and that’s really the bottom line,” he said. “[Research, scholarship, and creative activity] helps students realize the applicability of what they learn in their classroom, provides life-changing experiences, and prepares students to hit the ground running after graduation.”