Biomedical engineering grad Tanvi Gehani was a first-place winner at the annual CSU Research Competition during spring quarter, where only 10 Cal Poly students qualified to attend.

Gehani was rewarded in the Health, Nutrition and Clinical Sciences category for her presentation and research on the “Effect of Coconut Oil Intake in a Pig Model of Pediatric Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.” She said she was inspired by the increasing global threat of metabolic syndrome, as well as her own health journey.

“I have had a growing interest in intestinal health, particularly since I was diagnosed with Celiac disease which primarily impacts the small intestine,” Gehani said.

The competition concluded more than two years of this research — Gehani said she began in January 2020, working with biological sciences lecturer Magdalena Maj to observe how “different types of fatty acids progress disease in the liver and intestine.”

Students are often encouraged to seek out the different research opportunities that Cal Poly has to offer. To help make that happen, the Office of Student Research will host several Zoom workshops for current and future student researchers of all disciplines, June 21 through Aug. 18. More workshop details are available on the Office of Student Research website.

“The opportunity to learn by doing research is a powerful form of Cal Poly’s signature pedagogy,” said Jane Lehr, the director of the Office of Student Research at Cal Poly. “Hands-on opportunities to create new knowledge and answer real-world questions can transform student engagement with and experiences in their disciplines and at their institutions.”

At the 2022 CSU Research Competition, each student has an eight-minute video presentation, followed by a live five-minute Q&A segment.

In order to compete, students at Cal Poly first had to be selected from an internal Cal Poly research competition back in March. Ten out of around 40 students were chosen from Cal Poly to move on to the CSU-wide competition.

Students from several Cal State schools competed in 10 research categories for the 2022 CSU Research Competition: Behavioral, Social Sciences and Public Administration; Biological and Agricultural Sciences; Business, Economics and Hospitality Management; Creative Arts and Design; Education; Engineering and Computer Science; Health, Nutrition and Clinical Sciences; Humanities and Letters; Physical and Mathematical Sciences; and Interdisciplinary.

The competition was hosted virtually by San Francisco State University and took place on April 29 and 30, with winners announced on May 2.

Savannah Weaver, a master’s student studying biology, placed second in the Biological and Agricultural Sciences category for her research on the “Additive Effects of Humidity and Temperature on Acclimation in a Lizard.”

Weaver’s research, with the help of other research students, involved the study of around 140 Western fence lizards and the way that their physiology is affected by their environment, specifically in the context of climate change.

“I always love telling people about my research because I love lizards and I care a lot about reptiles and climate change,” Weaver said. “So, if I can kind of use this platform to spread that, then that is really important to me.”

Weaver is presenting this research at the annual joint meeting of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists in July and said that the competition helped prepare her for this.

“The most helpful thing was going from the Cal Poly internal competition to the state-wide one because that is when we really did get feedback,” Weaver said. “I will be able to use this as a really good learn-by-doing experience, if you will.”

Graduate students Jacob Campbell and Isaac Ho both received second-place awards in their prospective research categories.

Campbell, a student in the higher education counseling in student affairs program, won second place in the education research category for his research in “Defining Mixed-Race College Students: Examining Graduation Gaps Between Multiracial & Monoracial Undergraduates.”

Ho, in the food science blended master’s program, placed second in the Behavioral, Social Sciences and Public Administration category for his research in the “Use of Preference Analysis to Identify Early Adopter Mindsets of Insect-based Food Products.”

Gehani, like other participants in the competition, expressed her gratitude for the opportunity to explore research and apply her knowledge from classes to hands-on projects.

“I absolutely would recommend that other students get involved in whatever opportunities they can on campus. It doesn’t have to be research… Getting involved and trying new things is the best way to find out what you love and what you’re good at,” Gehani said.