USC Upstate Hosts 18th Annual Research Symposium

April 12, 2022 at 1:08 pm

The University of South Carolina Upstate hosted its 18th annual Research Symposium on Friday, April 8.

At least 300 students, faculty and community members from across the Upstate region and beyond descended on USC Upstate’s campus to network and share information about their research and scholarly or creative works.

“The Research Symposium is critically important to USC Upstate,” said Bennie L. Harris, Ph.D., chancellor of USC Upstate. “What makes a regional comprehensive like ours so unique is the tapestry of experiences we represent. As an institution we must continue to amplify all we do to encourage individuals to think and innovate.”

A photo of the career fair at the 18th annual Research Symposium held Friday, April 8, 2022 at USC Upstate's University Readiness Center.

The symposium, which was held virtually in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, returned to its live format this year with one important addition—a career fair featuring more than a dozen employers from across the state. The list included Spartanburg-based Milliken & Co., Bausch and Lomb, MUSC Health Professionals, Presbyterian OT, Presbyterian PA School, Prisma MedEx, SantoLubes, Scribe America, United Way of the Piedmont, The University of South Carolina, UofSC School of Medicine Greenville, UofSC Pharmacy, the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, and Winthrop University.

“Nearly all jobs and internships are filled through networking and personal connections,” said Josh Ruppel, director of research and a professor of Chemistry at USC Upstate. “You can submit your information online, but it’s so much more impactful when a student can hand their resume to a representative and then really make a connection… The research piece of this is such a great educational experience and preparation for what these students will be doing in graduate school. All around, it’s a positive.”

The symposium kicked off with a keynote address from Jennifer Runkle, Ph.D., a trained environmental epidemiologist who serves as a research scientist at N.C. State’s North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies and the Cooperative Institute for Satellite Earth System Studies within the academic arm of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information. Runkle’s presentation, which was made in the Olin B. Sansbury, Jr. Campus Life Center Ballroom, focused on “The Future of Public Health in the Climate Crisis.”   

From there, activities moved over to the University Readiness Center Greatroom, where students presented posters explaining their research and networked with other participants, guests, and company representatives on hand for the job fair.

USC Upstate senior biology major Mahde Alchabe, of Spartanburg, showed off his work exploring whether L-Methylfolate alleviates changes in autophagy induced by excess folic acid. His work could have a greater impact, as scientists are studying the relationship between Autism and folic acid.

A photo of the poster session at USC Upstate's 18th annual Research Symposium on Friday, April 8.

“I am really excited to be here,” said Alchabe, who will soon be applying to med schools. “I transferred from another university and have found it to be so much better here (at USC Upstate). The classes are smaller and the professors genuinely care about you… The lab experience I’ve had here is really what has made all of the difference for me.”

Disha Patel, a senior pre-med major at USC Upstate, also of Spartanburg, presented her research, “Excess Folic Acid Treatment Affects Dendritic Spine Density and Autophagy in SHSY5Y Cells.” Patel plans to attend medical school at the American University of the Caribbean.

“After COVID-19, this is something big that we’ve been able to do,” Patel said. “This is a learning opportunity and it’s an honor for all of us that we get to be here… Like anything, college has its ups and downs, but I wouldn’t trade my experience here at Upstate for anything. Academically and socially, I feel like USC Upstate has prepared me to take the next step to where I want to go.”

Patel and Alchabe praised Kim Shorter, Ph.D., associate professor of biology at USC Upstate, for her mentorship and support.

“There are so many great professors here (at Upstate) who want to see you succeed, who are willing to work with you,” Alchabe said.

Olivia Elkins, a senior biology major at Lander University, originally of Lexington, S.C., was grateful for the opportunity to share her work centered on the effect of 24-hour intermittent fasting on special memory tests in rats.

“This is a really great experience,” Elkins said. “I’m enjoying it because I am inspired to see the passion that people have for their work.”

A photo of the career fair at USC Upstate's 18th annual Research Symposium on Friday, April 8.

Ruppel said nearly 100 students presented posters for their work. Around 300 participants registered for breakout sessions that took place across campus and focused on a comprehensive range of topics, from ecological, biological, health, computer, and social sciences to business and economics.

“This is a celebration that highlights all of the work that our faculty and students pour into this undergraduate research,” said Hannah Terpack, director of career management at USC Upstate. “These relationships open doors for faculty and students. There is no downside to this. The time and energy invested in it comes back to us 10-, 20-, 100-fold.”

Terpack praised Zane Gray, a 2017 alumnus of USC Upstate who now serves as internship coordinator, for recognizing the opportunity to add a career fair to the symposium.