Greetings, my name is Ed Synakowski and I have the privilege of serving as your vice president for research here at UNLV. I am more than pleased to be part of the celebration of undergraduate research. I commend you for your participating in undergraduate research here. My high praise for what you do comes from my own experience. I was an undergraduate well before there were programs like this, but I had the good fortune of having work study eligibility. This got me on campus, out and about looking for a part-time job as a sophomore and I found one. A professor brought me aboard to his physics laboratory doing basic electronics and making mistakes while I learned a bit about spectroscopy. That experience set my career direction in plasma physics and fusion energy research. But even if it hadn’t, the outcome would have been life-changing. One, it revealed to me what kind of work environment I liked and could thrive in. For me, I loved being in a collegial group and so I sought out environments in graduate school like that. It revealed to me the nature of research – the fits and the starts and the frustrations – and then the victories as you begin to crack open problems and begin to see the world for how it really is. I found this happening in my own sphere and also as an observer embedded in a group of talented graduate students, post-docs, and technicians. Mostly though, my hope for you is that you get from this experience the sort of thing that I did. Namely, coming to know that through a combination of grit, tenacity, and support from one’s research group, which really is a community when you think about it, that you have a capacity to learn for yourself, to contribute, and to change things for the better and that is fundamentally deeper and different than what it was before you began your research.

I believe that through the research experience, you will come to understand that you can navigate your way, think flexibly, problem-solve, and thrive in a complex world. I came to understand that I didn’t need to be on the sidelines, but rather, that I could be a full participant in my lab, in my community, and more broadly than that. The potential of the research experience telling us all that we can thrive in a world that sometimes seems to be only full of threats is an exciting and important prospect and it’s a primary reason why my office is so pleased to be supporting you in this symposium and beyond . The fact that UNLV has such a strong undergraduate research enterprise was one of the draws for me in taking my new job.

I think of research — be it the STEM-fields, the arts and humanities, or elsewhere — as the ultimate in experiential learning platforms because there is no better way of coming to expand and know your own capacity at performing research.

I am so pleased to be part of a campus where students such as yourselves are creating their own path for research, learning about yourselves as you learn about the world. The range and depth of the research you are conducting and the research methods you are learning extend far beyond anything I have the good fortune of being part of. Now you are participating in an essential component of this in this symposium. That component is the act of communicating your experience and findings and making yourselves vulnerable to give in take. That is essential to the advancement of research in any discipline.

I am grateful for your efforts, your tenacity, and including your willingness to share here and the continued commitment of Professor Levent Atici and his team. I’m also grateful for the faculty and other research mentors who are supporting you. Please believe me when I say that you are serving you and your futures very well by your effort regardless of the research outcomes you’re uncovering. It’s a point of pride that UNLV graduates so many who have had a research experience that has helped them forge their own understanding of the nature of the world. Beyond that as well, their own capacity to understand and affect change for the better. I extend my very best wishes for a successful symposium.

Ed Synakowski, Ph.D.

UNLV Vice President for Research