APU Hosts Inaugural STEM Research Symposium

by Abigail Reed

After a summer of hands-on research, 42 undergraduate Azusa Pacific University students from various departments will join together at the inaugural STEM Research Symposium to celebrate their achievements and share their results. Each research project represents three months of intensive work alongside faculty members who partnered closely with their students, providing guidance and support throughout the process.

“We believe learning from one another makes us good stewards of our God-given talents and allows us to better serve others,” said Louise Ko Huang, Ph.D., director of the Center for Research in Science. “By uniting all STEM departments at the Research Symposium, Azusa Pacific welcomes multiple perspectives, which can help solve relevant problems in a more impactful way.”

Cristian Aguilar, Ph.D., assistant biology professor, partnered with Ruthia Soh ’19, biology major, to explore their shared curiosity of regenerative wounds. Why do salamanders and sea stars regrow limbs, but humans do not? What would it mean for the medical community and those with disabilities to discover the key to regeneration? Aguilar and Soh turned to epigenetic modification as the potential starting point for regenerative wounds. Months of research and experiments produced positive results: it seems inhibiting DNA Methyltransferase begins the regenerative process.

Investigating these questions with Soh, Aguilar reflected on his own time as an undergraduate research student working along side a professor. He said this experience positively influenced his college education and it fuels his commitment to direct and encourage the next generation of scientists, helping them pave the way to careers that will contribute to society in meaningful ways.

“We look to the future with excitement, providing vital research data to the eventual goal of limb regeneration in humans,” said Soh. “Our summer research points to the first step in giving simple wounds regenerative properties. If we figure out how to begin the process, future research can explore the following stages.”

Presenting alongside Soh at the Research Symposium, engineering major Ryan Brown ’20 works to solve the pressing issue of drone safety. The loud whirring of an object flying by on a clear day has become more common as the popularity of drones increases. However, drones pose potential threats. Brown dedicated his summer research to this rising issue by designing and manufacturing a drone detecting system, partnering with James Hsi-Jen Yeh, Ph.D. and Rick Sturdivant, Ph.D., both assistant professors in the Department of Engineering and Computer Science. After developing and installing software, Brown created a software filter that interprets and uses data collected through the signal generator. After testing using drone simulations, Brown’s system proved successful.

“Drone safety affects everyone, from children playing at a park to military service members,” said Brown. “I am excited to present this system as a solution, giving people the ability to detect drones before they cause damage or harm.”

Azusa Pacific’s Research Symposium brings together diverse majors and research questions, allowing students like Soh and Brown to engage in important dialogue and learn from one another.

“As a biology major, my field of study encompasses chemistry, math, and even physics,” said Soh. “Learning about the research of other STEM departments has the potential to inspire new ideas and further research within the realm of my studies at APU.”

Open to all students and community members and free of charge, the STEM Research Symposium takes place on September 29 from 9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. in the Segerstrom Science center at 701 E Foothill Blvd, Azusa. To inquire or RSVP, contact CRIS@apu.edu.

Abigail Reed is a public relations intern in the Office of University Relations. She is a liberal studies major with an honors humanities minor.