Playing for the academic team at Student Research Forum

Nicole Cardos discusses her project with a judge

Nicole Cardos presents her work at the Student Research Forum. “I persevered and made the final speech as impactful as possible,” says Cardos, a senior in English.  Photo: Joshua Clark


I’ve never been much of an athlete, but I played the part Thursday.

The event? The Student Research Forum. The arena? Academia. The skill? Speaking proficiently and repeatedly about a year’s worth of research to judges and curious people passing by.

Nearly 300 students were at the UIC Forum Thursday, fighting for the No. 1 spot in their academic category. Being an English major, I was grouped with humanities and social sciences. The title of my project was “Representations of Feminism on the Small Screen: From ‘Sex and the City’ to ‘Girls.’”

Pregame lasted between 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., when my peers and I made our way to the Forum to sign in and hang our posters. I warmed up by anxiously practicing my speech.

Then it started. At 1 p.m., the judges began to roll in. The first few minutes were dreamlike for me; I couldn’t imagine myself speaking calmly to a judge. Yes, I was nervous, but even more so, I was excited to speak about the research I’ve done this past year, and the great points I’ve found on the two series.

The first judge came by, followed by two more. I quickly gave my speech and forgot to mention a few aspects of my research. Thankfully, the judges asked enough questions to help me recount the information I missed.

By halftime I was in the zone, pointing out key points of my project. I made an effort to look people in the eye and be proud of my work.

The final quarter was the last judging period. Just when I thought I was done, a final judge came by. Worn out by explaining, I thought I’d lost my enthusiasm — until I realized: this could be one of the last times I’ll be presenting, let alone researching, an academic topic. I persevered and made the final speech as impactful as possible.

I don’t know for sure, but I assume my peers felt the same way that day. Some were graduate students, already thinking about their careers. Others, like me, were about to finish our first round of higher education. Although I kept imagining the nostalgia I’ll feel for this day and event in the future, I told myself to be in the moment and proud of my work.

The day ended at 5 p.m. when awards for the top three in each category were handed out. Not everyone earned awards, but we all won the opportunity to present the work we’ve accomplished.


Student Research Forum winners


Non-life Sciences

First: Vishal Varma, pathology, bioengineering
and nephrology
Faculty adviser Michael J. Walsh

Second: Amanda Robinson, museum and
exhibition studies
Faculty adviser Therese Quinn

Third: Modhi AlSobeihy, computer science
Faculty adviser Lenore Zuck

Life Sciences

First: Thao Pham, biopharmaceutical sciences
Faculty adviser Debra Tonetti

Second: Rand Akasheh, kinesiology and nutrition,
Faculty adviser Giamila Fantuzzi

Third: Sandra Gomez-Peres, kinesiology
and nutrition
Faculty adviser Carol Braunschweig



Mallery Lutey, anthropology,
Faculty adviser Sloan Williams


Business/Computer Science/Mathematics

Michael Perlman, mathematics, statistics

and  computer science
Faculty adviser Kevin Tucker


Engineering/Physical Sciences

Zubair Vhora, biological sciences
Faculty adviser Randal Dull


Life Sciences

First: Navika Shukla, biochemistry and molecular
genetics, faculty adviser Karen Colley

Second: Kevin Li, physical therapy, faculty adviser
Mark Grabiner

Third: Ralph Griffiths, kinesiology and nutrition,
faculty adviser Karrie Hamstra-Wright


Social Sciences

First: Rhiday Pandy, psychology,
faculty adviser Eric Leshikar

Second: Olivia Santiago, psychology,
faculty adviser Omar Jamil

Third: Laura Cuevas, psychology,
faculty adviser Michael Ragozzino


Sustainability Award

Palak Patel, Spanish
Faculty adviser Diana Gonzalez-Cameron



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