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CERCA returns in 2021 with virtual platform

| Gary Johnson

The Celebration of Excellence in Research and Creative Activity (CERCA) at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire each spring showcases the best in student-faculty/staff collaboration to the university community and beyond, says Dr. Catherine Chan, executive director of the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.

“It’s a reflection of the breadth and depth of scholarly work on this campus and the collaborations between students, and between faculty/staff and students,” Chan says. “I never stop being amazed at the range of projects. It says a lot about the level of engagement and participation throughout the campus and shows we value all kinds of scholarly and creative pursuits, regardless of formats and venues.”

This year’s CERCA will be virtual again because of COVID-19, but lessons learned from last year’s quick switch to an online format will make this year’s weeklong event an even better experience for audiences.

“Feedback from the presenters was that they appreciated the flexibility of the event,” Chan says of the 2020 event. “People had a wider window of time to review and interact with presenters by leaving messages. They weren’t restricted to a two-hour window.”

The virtual platform returns this year from April 19-23 as presentations will be available to an audience that stretches beyond the boundaries of the university campus. There also will be livestreamed presentations throughout the week, culminating with the Provost’s Honors Symposium on April 23.

“It’s important to campus that we don’t just live in our own silos,” Chan says. “CERCA is something to celebrate and an opportunity to engage the larger community.”

Links to the online CERCA presentations are available for UW-Eau Claire faculty, staff and students and for non-UW-Eau Claire guests. Visit the CERCA site for detailed login instructions.

The student experience

UW-Eau Claire students will present more than 200 projects, with many projects including multiple student researchers.

Senior Trevor Nelson has conducted multiple research projects during his college career and his largest is the CERCA project looking at granitoid rocks in a greenstone belt in Northern Ontario. Nelson, who worked with mentor Dr. Robert Lodge, associate professor of geology, has presented his findings to local, national and international gatherings about why some greenstone belts are enriched with metals and others are not.

“The research that I have participated in is the research that I hoped for when I first made my choice to attend UW-Eau Claire,” says Nelson, a native of Hammond who plans to graduate in December 2021 with a general geology degree and certificates in water resources and responsible mining. “I was hoping to have an opportunity to travel nationally or internationally within my major. I knew that having extracurricular opportunities were going to be possible, and I jumped at the first chance I had when I was asked to join the Northern Ontario team.”

With the assistance of faculty mentor Dr. Anjela Wong, associate professor of education studies, senior Tiana Dorosz focused her research on cultural competence in health care. The research investigated how health care professionals define and apply cultural competency in their medical practices.

“I have put countless hours into this project, but in my opinion, all the work is paying off,” says Dorosz, a senior biology major and Spanish minor from Hartford. “I’ve learned a great deal about myself as a student, a researcher and a future physician assistant.”

Mai Yer Yang, a junior chemistry major from Eau Claire, says she has been continuously challenged by her research with Dr. Krysti Knoche Gupta, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry. Their research aims to develop oxygen reduction and carbon dioxide reduction catalysts in lanthanides in recycled nuclear waste.

“Research is so much more than working on a project one enjoys,” Yang says. “It is about meeting people, building connections, and most of all, finding a mentor that supports you in your educational journey at UWEC and beyond. In the end, you will love what you are doing because passion stems from the confidence and curiosity of a person. As long as you have people in your life that helps foster both, your passion will never die.”

CVTC students join as presenters

New this year is the inclusion of 21 Chippewa Valley Technical College students as presenters. In the past, CVTC students have simply attended the UW-Eau Claire event.

“This is a good opportunity for us to really kind of test this collaboration and provide a forum for CVTC students to see our work and vice versa,” Chan says. “This year they will actually present, not just attend. We’re excited about that.”

For more information about the celebration, see the CERCA website.