Annual Research in the Capitol Event Showcases Undergraduate Research

Undergraduate researchers from the three Regent Universities gathered at the Iowa State Capitol March 29 for The 11th Annual Research in the Capitol Event. Students from the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and the University of Northern Iowa showcased their research to Iowa lawmakers and the public inside the Capitol Rotunda.

Students, including Zach Lones of Iowa State, displayed research posters over a period of two hours, and answered questions from those present. Lones, a senior Computer Engineering major, presented his project, Space/Time Analysis for Cybersecurity, which aims to develop faster software analysis tools for cybersecurity professionals. The project, funded by a grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), also has aims to improve vulnerability detection in software programs.

“Before I started working with this group, I had never done any sort of program analysis,” Lones said. “The hardest part for me, initially, was probably picking up on all of the terms everyone was using.”

Lones admits that what was once difficult for him is certainly difficult for those he’s presenting his research to. 

“There were a bunch of people that would come listen to my presentation and have no idea what I was talking about at first,” he said. “I feel that I was in the same boat for other posters though, since a lot of them featured concepts that I couldn’t even begin to understand. It’s great to have such a diverse research base across the three universities.”

Kevin McGee’s poster stood just a few feet from Lones’s, but couldn’t be farther away in terms of content. McGee, a senior in Quantitative Economics and Statistics at the University of Northern Iowa, studied attendance numbers for National Basketball Association (NBA) teams in an effort to determine what factors affect fan turnout at games. McGee collected data such as city populations, unemployment rates, per capita income figures, and other numbers from a number of cities across the country and used them to evaluate the feasibility of those cities acquiring an NBA team.

“I’ve always been interested in the NBA,” McGee said. “And I wondered why some small cities had NBA teams, but some much larger cities did not. I had a blast presenting my research at the Capitol and it was great to meet and talk with legislators, fellow students, and other guests.”

Now in its 11th year, the annual Research in the Capitol Day has allowed more than 500 undergraduate researchers from the three Regent Universities to travel to the Iowa Statehouse and present their work to legislators and the public.