Liz Riggs admits that researching a more aerodynamic recumbent bicycle is not the most profound topic, but it's research all the same.
"I've always been interested in research," she said. "The reason I like this so much is it's my own research. I've learned a lot more doing this than I would have working for a professor."
A Kansas University senior in aerospace engineering from Bellevue, Neb., Riggs was one of 60 students who presented at Saturday's Undergraduate Research Symposium at the Kansas Union.
Her research concerned fairings, or plastic shells, used in recumbent bicycle races. She built a styrofoam model of the fairing and tested it in a wind tunnel.
It's experience that will come in handy. Last summer, Riggs worked for Boeing in Seattle, and she hopes to return to the aviation giant some day. Given the current aerospace job market, however, she's applying for a Fulbright Grant to teach English in South Korea. She's also interested in using her knowledge of engineering and aerodynamics to improve electricity-generating wind turbines.
Other projects Saturday ran the gamut from katydid mating behavior to a documentary of students' reactions to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
An undergraduate education is not complete without research, said Barbara Schowen, director of the University Honors Program and professor of chemistry.
"I think it's a way for students to really understand their discipline," she said. "It goes beyond the classroom."
Schowen said KU had a strong history of undergraduate research. The projects, she said, also could pave career paths.
"If you're given an opportunity to get out of a classroom and do something sometime it really turns people on," she said.