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GRAD 2017 on display

UND’s revamped graduate research expo allows more opportunity for participation, collaboration and community outreach

Tarek Elderini
UND graduate student Tarek Elderini uses his robotics background from Egypt to collaborate with other engineering graduate students on computer vision-based research under the supervision of faculty advisors Naima Kaabouch and Jeremiah Neubert. The research will be on display at Thursday’s Graduate Research Achievement Day in the UND Memorial Union Ballroom. Photo by Tyler Ingham.


Graduate Research Achievement Day (GRAD):  March 2 at the UND Memorial Union Ballroom

Public viewing and award ceremony: 1-4 p.m.

Reception with giveaways and door prizes: 4-5 p.m.

The story

Tarek Elderini can talk to you all day about algorithms, trajectories and image processing. But what really gets this UND electrical engineering Ph.D. student grinning is how those things can be applied to keep people safe.

“We’re trying to make robots and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) assist human beings in hazardous tasks and suffocating places, as well as saving time,” Elderini explained. “If you want to detect cracks or transmission line faults, or deal with fires or chemical issues, you can send in a UAV or robot instead of a person. The robot is going to be more efficient and less risky than sending in a human being.”

Elderini is using his robotics background from Egypt to collaborate with other engineering graduate students on their computer vision-based research under the supervision of faculty advisors Naima Kaabouch and Jeremiah Neubert. Together, the team is working through constraints like processing speed, weight and daylight/night vision restrictions that make robots less effective.

Elderini’s area of focus is collision avoidance, and he’s adding that expertise to the team’s shared goal of making these tools work faster and more accurately.

“It’s one lab, working together, and each of us has a focus point so that we can merge together at the end and find something efficient,” Elderini said.

GRAD 2017

Elderini and his colleagues will join more than 200 others across many disciplines in presenting their findings at Graduate Research Achievement Day (GRAD). The March 2 public expo is a free, one-day, one-room celebration of graduate research, scholarship and creative activity at UND. It replaces what was known as the Scholarly Forum.

Naomi Hansen, GRAD organizer and director of marketing and communications for the School of Graduate Studies, says the new format takes presenters out of the one-way lecture bowl setting for which the Scholarly Forum was known.

“This gives us more opportunity to be engaged with all of our graduate students, where everyone is in the same room and they walk around and take that time to really engage, rather than just be spoken to,” Hansen said.

The open format also allows for more collaborative presentations from teams like Elderini’s.

“You’ll see students from different programs and different areas across campus coming together,” Hansen said. “That’s what I find fascinating: to see not only students who have similar interests, but to hear them discuss each other’s research.”

A little competition will be injected into the event, with cash awards given to the top three presentations in three categories: engineering, natural sciences and professional, social sciences, humanities and arts.

Participation possibilities

Hansen is also excited to include graduate participants who haven’t been as easy to incorporate in the past. Those who can’t be present or have creative activity to display — such as music or theatre arts — will be given the opportunity to record and loop video of their work through the help of UND’s Center for Instructional and Learning Technologies.

The option of extended participation is vital for online students like Brad Lind in Plymouth, Minn. The nurse educator track master’s student is researching the use of massage by nurses for improved comfort and pain relief in patients. He’ll be putting his findings on display from afar.

“I wish I could be up there, but one of the realities of being an online student is that most of us are working and a five-hour drive away,” Lind expressed. “My hope is I will get some feedback that tells me where the strengths of my presentation were, as well as the weaknesses.”

“Nearly 60 percent of our graduate students are online, and they’re very important to us,” Hansen said. “We need to make sure that that large portion of our students feels invested and tied to the University of North Dakota.”

Spotlight on research

One of the intended outcomes of the creation of GRAD as an open public event is putting graduate students on display for those beyond the UND community. “We want to let people who aren’t as familiar with graduate education on this campus know what these students are capable of and how wonderful they really are,” Hansen said.

There is also a renewed focus on reaching out to current undergraduate students and also the next generation of UND recruits from area elementary schools and high schools.

“It starts before they even step on this campus as an undergrad,” she added. “They can see, participate in and know what opportunities they have within graduate school and get a glimpse of what graduate school has to offer.”

As this year’s GRAD participants can attest, the benefits of sharing research with colleagues and community go far beyond charts, graphs and abstracts.

“Usually this kind of experience gives you more faith in yourself,” Elderini said. “People ask questions that make you think about a point that you had never thought about before.”