Undergraduate research surprises at symposium

Film student Garrett Katerzynske presented in costume to blend into Room Three, one of five interactive scenes in the multimedia narrative environment “Retraction.” Katerzynske’s work on the project earned him one of three first-place ribbons awarded at the Undergraduate Research Symposium. “Retraction” will be at the Milwaukee Art Museum in 2012-13. Photos by Troye Fox

More than 150 students and a panel of 85 judges made for the largest and most dramatic Undergraduate Research Symposium in the event’s four-year history Friday afternoon in the Union Wisconsin Room.

Nigel Rothfels, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research, had to extend his speech by several minutes as the final tabulations were made and names of the winning student researchers were passed to the stage.

Four state fair-style ribbons were to be awarded to one winner, each, in first through third place, plus the inaugural OUR award for best oral presentation. Instead, there were ties in three categories. Ribbons were shared, but every student walked away with a prize between $50 and $200, supported by the Graduate School.

Organizers looked on the ribbon sharing as just another sign of the program’s success in transforming undergraduate students into experienced researchers who often complete graduate-level research well before graduation day.

“This year we had to move this symposium into a bigger space,” Rothfels said.

“I’m most impressed by the diversity and the caliber of research,” said Phyllis King, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs.

“This is a high-value program that can lead to greater gains in learning, retention, graduation, success and increased employment opportunities for students in related fields,” she said.

The OUR experience has been mutually beneficial for Bruce Charlesworth, assistant professor of film, and Garrett Katerzynske, a senior student in the Peck School of the Arts Film Department and the Journalism & Media Studies program in the College of Letters & Science.

“I did construction, production, lighting design, all kinds of behind-the-scenes work,” Katerzynske explained as he presented his research on “Retraction.” Described as a “multimedia narrative environment about anticipation and the passage of time,” and designed by Charlesworth, “Retraction”’s sets have been under construction for several months at multiple locations.

Katerzynske’s contributions to the project earned him one of the three first-place awards at the symposium.

“I’ve worked with Garrett since 2010 and it’s been great to be able to work together over four semesters and build that trust,” Charlesworth said. “He’s been helpful to everyone involved in ‘Retraction,’ and the OUR experience has been really valuable for Garrett. He’s taken on quite a bit of responsibility through this project.”

Katerzynske welcomed the immersive, interactive opportunity to network with faculty and engage hands and mind in a multimedia project that transforms viewers into participants in a five-room environment unfolding before them on a large screen.

“My entire undergraduate study I’ve been watching filmmakers’ work, writing about work, picking about others’ work,” he said. “It’s been great to be an active participant in crafting a professional work, rather then the traditional studying.”

Next for the film major is a summer semester in London, then graduation. Katerzynske says he plans to work in the film industry.

“Retraction” debuts at the Milwaukee Art Museum in 2012-13.

A complete list of Undergraduate Research Symposium winners follows.


Garrett Katerzynske, “Retraction”
Mentor: Bruce Charlesworth, assistant professor of film

Ben Callif, “Increase in zif268 Expression in the Amygdala after Different Types of Fear Conditioning”
Mentor: Fred Helmstetter, professor of psychology

Kelsey George, “The Effect of Aerobic Fatigue on Cognitive Function”
Mentor: Wendy Huddleston, assistant professor of physical therapy


John Hawkins Jr., “Eliminating Energy Cost of Physical Activity Wrist and Hip Accelerometry in Older Adults”
Mentor: Scott Strath, associate professor of human movement sciences

Geoffrey Severin, “Enteric Bioluminescent Vibrio in Marine Fish May Not Correlate to the Proximal Planktonic Environment”
Mentor: Charles Wimpee, associate professor of biological sciences


Gina Ruchalski and Hailey Dulde, “Observing and Documenting Studio Thinking Skills in a Project-Based Curriculum Centered on Arts Integration and Latino Culture”
Mentor: Laura Trafi-Prats, associate professor of art & design

Wendy Ruenzel, “Are You Faking It? What Influences Effort or Lack of Effort on Assessment Test Performance?”
Mentor: David Osmon, professor of psychology


Fly Steffens, “Using Dramaturgical Resources to Develop a New Performance of ‘King Lear’”

Mentor: Rebecca Holderness, associate professor of theatre

Find your undergraduate research experience

Visit www.our.uwm.edu.

From there, browse the list of research opportunities, then complete an application under the “Apply to Get Involved” tab. New OUR students are placed every semester.