University of New Mexico undergraduate students work closely with faculty mentors to conduct innovative and exciting research.  Each spring, this research is celebrated at the annual Undergraduate Research Opportunity Conference (UROC). UROC is a professional research conference reserved solely for undergraduates to spotlight their research, explain their ideas, and display what they have to offer in their respective fields and majors.

The goals of UROC are to:

  • Provide an opportunity for undergraduate students to present their research projects in and outside of the classroom/lab.
  • Create opportunities for undergraduate students to network with faculty, graduate students, and the greater UNM community.
  • Showcase the undergraduate research to UNM communities, including donors, policymakers, local business and industries, and other stakeholders. At UROC 2023, a total of 160 students participated in the various competitions.

UROC 180

The UROC 180 Competition, like an elevator pitch, challenges students to present their research in just 180 seconds to the general audience with no background in your research area. Students do use PowerPoint, video, or other media. The top three winners receive scholarships ($500 first prize, $300 second prize, and $200 third prize).

During the conference, UROC 180 presenters are assigned to one of two heats. The judges then select the top presenters from each heat to compete at the UROC 180 final.

Meg Honnold
Meg Honnold

Meg Honnold, whose research field is Social Sciences, received first place and a $500 scholarship with her presentation on The American Homeschool Movement: An Analytic Review of Prominent Research Topics, Leading Voices, and Emerging Studies

According to her abstract, homeschooling is a steadily growing practice with an estimated 2 million students (excluding COVID-19 school closures), highlighting the need for comprehensive research informing policymakers, parents, and organizations… This study presents a literature review and visual map answering the question, "What are the analytic grounds and gaps of research on homeschooling in the United States?"

Read more about Meg Honnold and her research.

Izabelle Chavez received a $300 for her second-place presentation Alleviating Huntington’s Disease with A Lifespan-Increasing Genetic Pathway. Her research field is Medicine and Health Sciences. In her presentation, Chavez presented information about her research on Huntington’s disease. “Through my research I plan to research a genetic pathway my lab has previously found to increase lifespan to identify its effects on protein aggregation and possible potential in alleviating Huntington’s disease.”

Brenda Ramos Villanueva took third place and received a $200 scholarship for her presentation Causes and consequences of avian malaria in the tropical Andes. Her area of research is STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering, Math). According to her abstract, “avian malaria occurs worldwide and is very diverse. Two outstanding questions about avian malaria will require diverse approaches: (1) How do climate and host species influence the occurrence and intensity of infections? And (2) How does infection affect host condition and performance?”

Other UROC 180 presenters were Lourdes Cazares, Rogelio Cruz, Shaleena Flores, Alicia Gallego, Jaimie Ritchie, Katherin Salazar, Cesar Castillo Vega, Andrew Geyko, Austin McOwiti, Carlos Ortega Lujan, Lisa Marie Pagliano, Martin Soto, Ashley Beard, Noah Calvert, Brandon Doehne, Ian Erwin, and Abigail Pribisova.

Abstracts from the UROC 180 presenters can be found here.

UROC Research Stories

The UROC Research Story competition encourages students to communicate the story behind their research projects to the public. Students describe the context of their research and show their journeys surrounding their projects.  Research stories can be presented through any online format, such as videos, essays, or podcasts. This competition was judged by communications professionals, with the winning story receiving a $250 cash prize.

Screenshot 2023-04-13 at 8.34.32 AM
Abrianna Morales

Abrianna Morales received a $250 prize for her story about victim advocacy and sexual violence prevention.

“After being sexually assaulted at the age of 15 and encountering the social, emotional, and legal turmoil that comes with victimization, I decided to create the resource I had needed most. In 2017, I founded Sexual Assault Youth Support Network (SAYSN), an organization devoted to supporting, empowering, and connecting young survivors and those that support them. As the founder of SAYSN, I've had the opportunity to work as a community organizer and legislative advocate in service of those victimized by sexual violence… It wasn't until I began studying at UNM that I realized the importance of research as a tool for resistance, progress, and meaningful change for those impacted by violence… My experience as a victim advocate, activist, and researcher has shown me the importance of effectively uniting research, practice, and policy in service of sexual violence survivors…”

Read more about Morales here and here.

Meg HonnoldDeja Brown, and Velanie Chavez received $100 prizes for their presentations.

Honnold related her story as a homeschool alum from a high control subculture. “I doubted whether higher education was attainable. Now, as I pursue my degree in sociology, I want to pour back into the homeschool movement in its many forms by cultivating nuanced research unto public awareness, accurate records, and policy reform… With a research story, I want to place the analytic presentation of research within the picture my own background as a homeschooler.”

Brown’s presentation about language advertisement and the way language impacts perceptions about food garnered a $100 prize. “… In my Intro to Linguistic Analysis I read a paper called Why Ice Cream Sounds Fat and Crackers Sound Skinny... The journey so far on completing my research project has been enlightening and engaging. I plan to learn more critical thinking skills as we continue this project.”

Chavez’s presentation on Through the Door That Disappears Behind You received $100. “In the Fall of 2021, a new friend of mine was found dead outside of a concert due to a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Shortly after his death, I found myself traveling down a rabbit hole, trying to understand the difficulties refugee and immigrants face within this/their host countries aside from what my friend shared within the conversations we had… I decided to make my platform count, and wanted to continue exploring The Relationship Between Social Inequalities and Mental Health Among Latinx Immigrant Newcomers in New Mexico During the COVID-19 Pandemic, which eventually became the title of my research...

Poster presentations

The posters are a concise, visual representation of student research. Students explain their research projects during UROC to faculty, staff, students, and other visitors. Volunteers also meet with the students, discuss their research, and give them feedback on points such as command of their topic and how well they engage with visitors.

Poster presenters were Adina Abudushalamu, Ian Alsobrook, Charlotte Auh, Crystal Cevering, Ian Erwin, Christine Gleicher, Anne Hittson, Katie James, Alexandra Jaquez, Ashley Loehn, Kineo Memmer, Abrianna Morales, John Olivas, Jennifer Patterson, Brenda Ramos Villanueva, John San Nicolas, Mario Ulloa, Carolina Valderrama Hincapie, Ashley Beard, Deja Brown, Noah Calvert, Dominic Cordova, Alex Craig, Shantae Gallegos, Andrew Geyko, Alexa Gonzales, Murphy John, Alexander Kaltenbach, Nikolaos Mavridis, Reagan McClellan, Alexandra Mirabal, Andreana Nourie, Marian Olewine, Abigail Pribisova, Sebastian Romero, Andrew Schumann, Martin Soto, Melina Vugrin, Adelina Adams, Irvin Arroyo-Torres, Brandon Chavarria-Salazar, Arshia Chhabra, Christy Frederick, Andrew Gibson, Francine Lopez, Dorothy Mberile, Austin McOwiti, Abel Molinar, Jadin Moore, Vineet Narayanan, Benjamin Rodriguez, Katherin Salazar, Jesus Sanchez, Abigail Stewart, Diego Tenorio, Ariadna Torres, Amber Wood, Jesus Aguilar, Troy Bencoe, Michael Bess, Tiziana Friedman, Sa’angna Mi’ila Gollette, Meg Honnold, Leigh James, Ruixuan Liu, Uki Lucero, Marelessis Palomino, Mikayla Ranspot, Melissa Rudden, Alix Rule, Elizabeth Sanchez, Madison Schindler, Johanna Tsala, Ebode, Cheryn Vigil, April Vihilidal, and Elizabeth Zellner.

Poster presenters and their abstracts can be viewed here.

Oral presentations

Oral presentations are 10 minutes long, allowing a more in-depth review of each student’s research, lets students explain how they became interested in their research in STEM, Humanities, Social Sciences, Medicine/Health Sciences, Business, Education, and Art and Design. See oral presenters, their topics, and abstracts here.

Presenters were Katie Abrego-Lozano, Ian Alsobrook, Julián Ángel, Brandon Doehne, Katie James, Bryan Kendall (STEM and Social Sciences), Hannah Naljahih, Carlos Ortega Lujan, John San Nicolas, Mark Campbell, Lourdes Cazares, Rogelio Cruz, Ríos Fernández, Alicia Gallegos, Alexa Gonzalez, Nikolas Mavridis, Luke McGowen, Abigail Pribisova, Reyes Reynaga, Cesar Castillo Vega, Laysha Lineth Chaparro, Andrew Geyko, Floredith Morales Chavez, Madison Otero, Martin Soto, Kori Szabo-Smith, Travis Torres, Thompson, April Vihilidal, Elizabeth Zapien, Elizabeth Zellner, Giovanni Cordova, Simon Doneski, Jordan Hernandez, Helena Mieras, Benjamin Rodriguez, Natalie Rovello, Katherin Salazar, and Damian Yazzie. 

UROC coordinator Jennifer Payne describes UROC as a low-stakes, low-stress environment where student researchers become the experts and are excited at taking agency in their research and showcasing their original work.

Kiyoko Simmons, a UROC co-founder from the Honors College, tells students, “UROC is a great place to start. It’s a great place to not only present your research ideas but also to get feedback so you can improve your research project.”

UROC was created to give visibility to all undergraduate students, giving them the chance to present their work and gain invaluable conference experience. The conference was created to be inclusive of all research types, majors, and fields of interest. Sarita Cargas, professor in the Honors College and UROC co-founder, has encouraged many students to participate and share their original ideas and research, no matter the topic, and especially wanted to dispel the myth that research is only done in the sciences. 

“Research exists across disciplines,” she said, “and this includes the humanities.”

UROC is sponsored by the UNM Office of Academic Affairs, College of Arts & Sciences, Engineering Student Success Center, ECURE, Grand Challenges, Honors College, McNair Scholars/ROP, Office of the Vice President for Research, School of Engineering, University College, University Libraries, and URAD.