Credit: Abby Gorman / Mustang News

Chatter filled the Engineering Plaza last Friday. Peers, professors and community members filed through the crowded halls of posterboards, each accompanied by a student researcher eager to recite their spiel.

The annual Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP+) Symposium, organized by the Office of Student Research, displayed the work of hundreds of student researchers across five of the six colleges at Cal Poly. 

Undergraduate students select topics and spend the summer working alongside a faculty adviser to conduct their research across disciplines — ranging from engineering labs to theater performances.  

The event is held in partnership with the California Central Coast Community College Collaborative (C6), allowing students from eight state community colleges to participate. 

For business administration senior Alyssa Joseph, SURP+ was her first introduction to extended research projects. 

Inspired by her background interest in fundraising campaigns, Joseph created posters for domestic violence advocacy and compared the effectiveness on male and female audiences.

 “I believe this is a really important issue in the community, so that’s what originally geared me at looking at this type of advertisement,” she said. 

Joseph said she enjoyed the opportunity to share her knowledge in a way that is not as common within her college.

“I’m really proud that I can present research that isn’t just STEM-based,” she said. “It’s not just about innovating; it’s about developing and making existing things better.”

The interdisciplinary nature of the event is one of its greatest strengths, according to Jane Lehr, director of the Office of Student Research. 

“It’s a tremendous sight for future collaborations, between students as well as faculty and staff,” Lehr said. “This event showcases the huge variety of research and creative work that is making a difference on campus and in the local community.”

Kevin Gong, a student at Monterey Peninsula College, practiced his engineering and programming skills while creating a device to perfectly toast a fortune cookie for Oakland Fortune Cookie Factory. 

“They reached out because they needed a method to help them get more consistent cookies,” he said. “In their old model, someone had to be there to take the cookies out, put the papers in and fold them. Our new version would do that automatically, which could potentially double their output.”

Through visits to the manufacturing facility and many hours of trial and error, Gong was able to test the effectiveness of his work. 

“It was a very valuable experience, but it definitely gets frustrating at times,” he said. “Taking a break and coming back to it later is very helpful.”

The Office of Student Research is in Building 38, Room 101 and is a resource available for any students interested in learning more about the program.

Student research assistants and peer advisors are available at the center by appointment to discuss a range of topics, from how to find research project opportunities to graduate school pathway advising.

“We’re really eager to continue to build this program,” Lehr said.