Students continue their adventure through the Stupka Symposium

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Everyone wants to make a lasting impact. Although his life was cut short in 2005, Rob Stupka was an outstanding student whose impact can still be felt at Iowa State University.

Before his tragic death, Stukpa spent countless hours planning a research symposium in the Department of Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Molecular Biology (BBMB). Today, his memory is honored at the annual Stupka Symposium where undergraduates share their research with faculty and professionals.

This spring marked the 11th annual symposium.

Mandy Gorniak and Flora Yen were the 2016 Symposium Chairs.

The Stupka Symposium is organized and run by undergraduate students in BBMB. Flora Yen, a senior in biochemistry and a symposium co-chair, has been involved with the Symposium since her freshman year. She wanted to try something out of her comfort zone and was able to get involved in research and grow her passion for it. Now, she’s in a leadership role. “Being involved with the planning committee shapes your ability to communicate, resolve problems, and ultimately, to find your passion in research,” Yen said. “Having others evaluate students’ work is crucial practice in sharing scientific research content.”

The single-day event takes nearly a year to plan.

Attendance this year was high. The number of registered students during the single-day event was 183, nearing the 212 students that attended last year’s two-day anniversary event.

Bob and Diane Stupka, Rob’s parents, attended the event.

“It’s always nice when the Stupkas are here and you see how grateful they are. It’s really rewarding to see after all the hard work,” Yen said. Their attendance is her favorite part of every symposium.

Students on the planning committee secure nationally recognized speakers for the event. This year they hosted Mariah Lawler, an alumna who knew Rob Stupka personally and was able to inspire attendees in a unique way.

Students share their research during the second poster session.

In addition to speaking at the event, the planning committee invites guest speakers to interact with students during various activities the night before the symposium. Speakers and alumni also mingle and answer students’ questions during the event’s dinner.

The final element of the event is the poster sessions, during which students present their research and share their hard work and findings. The sessions are judged, and the three best posters receive recognition. Four students won the poster competition this year: Chaoyou Xue, a graduate student, and Jennifer Gribble, Morgan Barrett, and Jeff Carley. Barrett and Carley collaborated on a single poster.

Yen said this symposium made her a little emotional. “It got me thinking that I am actually leaving soon,” she said. However, though bittersweet, Yen is confident that she was part of something that will continue thriving even following her graduation.