On Sept. 24, family, friends and alumni gathered at the Segerstrom Science Center to take note of the brilliant research done by APU STEM students. 


This past Saturday, faculty, students, families, friends, alumni and prospective students crowded into Segerstrom to witness the creativity of the students’ projects, and their applications in APU’s 5th Annual STEM Research Symposium.


This event was coordinated by Louise Huang, the Acting Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Huang looks forward to this STEM event every single year and said the students always amaze her with their research. She especially loves how this event allows for people to connect with one another.“This event could really bring a broad group of people together, and that’s what I generally love to see take place on our campus,” said Huang.


Huang sees how APU students are able to think more holistically about science due to the Christian faith integration within the courses. Huang believes that STEM students have the unique opportunity to study science at a Christian University, and see how God and nature integrate with one another. 


Huang said, “When I found something that was so symmetrical and beautiful in the lab, I just had to stop to praise God and wondered, why did God even create things that way?” 


As the event carried on throughout the afternoon, Huang was asked how proud she was of her students. “I’m extremely proud. I don’t know if you could tell, but I’ve been smiling all day,” she said.


One of the students participating was Halina Liu, a senior majoring in biology. She has been working on her project throughout the summer and a little into this year. Liu was excited to share her work with her peers and get feedback on her research. 


Her project is focused on how some plants contain photo protective mechanisms and how plant’s protective mechanisms change due to their location. Liu explained how during photosynthesis plants can absorb an excessive amount of light energy, which could be very harmful for them.


Therefore, non-photochemical quenching detracts the energy from these plants and releases the heat. Non-photochemical is defined as a photoprotective mechanism that releases the excessive energy from a plant. Liu discussed the importance of this protective mechanism and how it plays a role in our economy. 


“In the bigger field of things, I want to see if we can create a higher yield of food products and crops by harnessing their photosynthetic rates and increasing them,” Liu said. 


Liu has always been interested in the inner workings of the human body because it’s helped her learn more about herself and others. She hopes to apply everything she learned from her biology major to her future career in the dental field. 


Emily Gottry, another student who presented at the event, is an applied mathematics major and a senior this year. Gottry started doing research her sophomore year of college and she really enjoyed it. One of the main reasons she chose APU was because of the research opportunities that were provided to her. Gottry has dedicated her research to studying optical solitons and implementing them through code.


Optical solitons means that the pulses that expand throughout the propagation do not change over time. She is modeling the optical solitons because she wants to see the “effect of gain” on the solitons behavior. 


Gottry looked forward to sharing her work at the event because she believed all the pieces were finally together. “I’m excited to share the fully grown version of this research because it’s more clean and together now,” said Gottry. 


Once she graduates, Gottry wants to be either a signals analyst or data analyst, but she is still deciding between the two. However, everything she has learned at APU will help her tackle open-ended problems as she enters her job field. 


Another student who presented was William Dortch. Dortch is a sophomore majoring in systems engineering and his project focused on the theme of mental health and how music therapy can help improve someone’s mental state. He collected data using a machine in order to observe how people felt about music. This project was important to him because it taught him how to balance his school life.


Over the summer, Dortch learned how not to overwork himself, but he also needed to find ways that helped him study effectively. For this reason, he decided to do his project on music therapy. He found out that listening to music while studying caused him less stress. 


“What I hope people get out of my research is being able to be calm and find balance. A lot of times people don’t balance themselves or give themselves enough grace,” said Dortch. In the future, Dortch hopes to be a systems engineer because of how eye-opening his experience has been. 


This year’s STEM Research Symposium gave APU students the opportunity to showcase their talents and passion for science. These young researchers presented the audience with insights to how their projects would better the people and the world around them.