Texas Tech University

Texas Tech University's Discoveries to Impact Conference Ignites Collaboration and Innovation

Kathryn Dankesreiter, Assistant Director of Public Relations

May 2, 2024

Undergraduate Research Conference

Innovators, engaged scholars, undergraduate researchers, and entrepreneurs were showcased throughout the month-long celebration.

The sixth annual Discoveries to Impact (DTI) was BIGGER and BETTER than ever. For the first time, DTI showcased the best of West Texas throughout the entire month of April with a week dedicated to Research, Engagement, Innovation, and Startups!

With over 1,750 attendees, Discoveries to Impact Month included the 16th Annual TTU Undergraduate Research Conference, CISER's 32nd Undergraduate Research Scholars Banquet, the 6th Annual Engaged Scholarship Symposium, as well as the Texas Tech Accelerator Competition, two dynamic keynote speakers, and more. 

The conference fosters collaboration among researchers, innovators, entrepreneurs, scholars and encourages interdisciplinary dialogue to promote the translation of research findings into real-world applications. Throughout the month over $430,000 was awarded to undergraduate researchers, engaged scholars, innovators, and entrepreneurs. 

Startup Week

The month kicked off with a showcase of innovators and entrepreneurs at the Texas Tech Innovation Hub. The week hosted keynote speaker, Paul Singh, an experienced entrepreneur and angel investor. Paul spoke to over 75 students, faculty, and entrepreneurs at the 1 Million Cups community meeting. He inspired students to think beyond the traditional career path and look for opportunities to drive impact through entrepreneurship. 

The next day, over 288 community members, students, faculty, and Texas Tech leadership joined the Innovation Hub to hear Paul give his keynote address. The address highlighted the unique opportunities universities must develop and capitalize off their entrepreneurial community. Following the keynote address, 18 Innovation Hub startups shared their journeys and products with attendees at the first Startup Expo.

Finally, the two-day Texas Tech Accelerator Competition featured 18 startup finalists from a variety of industries, including healthcare, artificial intelligence, engineering, and SaaS. On Friday, April 5th, the finalists of the Accelerator Competition and Red Raider Idea Competition gathered at Buddy Holly Hall with their families and friends. 

The winners of both competitions received a total of $353,500 in monetary awards. The 14 Accelerator winners each received a $25,000 grant and entrance into the year-long Accelerator Program to launch innovative startups.

“This week, students, faculty, and community members showcased their innovative ideas that are making an impact through entrepreneurship,” shares Taysha Williams, Managing Director of the Innovation Hub. “By supporting our largest Accelerator cohort to date, Texas Tech helps shape the future and provides a path for advancing West Texas.”

Research Week

Research Week showcased 429 undergraduate poster presentations throughout the two-day 16th annual Undergraduate Research Conference (URC). The student presenters showcased research and creative scholarship from all academic disciplines. The 2024 URC Banquet featured 5 award categories, new and old. The evening celebrated 56 students for their excellent efforts in presenting their research and creative activities projects. 

Thanks to a generous contribution, of over $29,000, from the Lubbock Economic Development Alliance (LEDA), the URC launched two entirely new categories of presenter awards. 

New award categories included the LEDA Outstanding Commercialization Awards, which selected 5 recipients ranging from $7500 to $1000, and the LEDA Potential Commercialization Awards, which selected 10 recipients who each received $75. These tracks encourage presenters to think beyond their research and explore the possibility of business formation and commercialization.

The LEDA Impact Awards returned for their 5th year and highlighted 10 Impact Areas with each celebrating the top three presenters and ranging from $500 to $200. 

The Undergraduate Writing Center partnered with the URC for its' 3rd annual Outstanding Abstract Competition. Three recipients were selected, and awards ranged from $150 to $50. 

The TrUE Scholars program hosted a special poster session and 5 recipients received awards ranging from $500 to $100.

“The URC is a special opportunity to come together as an undergraduate research community and celebrate these phenomenal students,” says Levi Johnson, Director of the Center for Transformative Undergraduate Experiences (TrUE). “We are incredibly thankful for LEDA supporting the conference and strengthening our connection to the Lubbock community.”

The Center for the Integration of STEM Education and Research (CISER) hosted its 32nd annual Scholars Banquet. The evening event hosted over 65 attendees, including undergraduate researchers, faculty mentors, and visiting alumni, who celebrated the accomplishments of their Scholars. 

The evening was concluded with the announcement of over $36,000 in awards that will support CISER's Undergraduate Research Scholars through scholarships and mission trip funding. The awards were made possible through generous alumni donors.

Engagement Week

The third week of April highlighted the theory and practice of outreach and engaged scholarship in higher education. The sixth annual Engaged Scholarship Symposium hosted over 80 Engaged Scholars who incorporate outreach and engagement into their teaching, research, and creative activities; build mutually beneficial partnerships with different communities, integrate student engagement into curriculum, and more!

Outreach and Engagement recognized eight of these faculty members with the President's Engaged Scholarship Awards for the impact of their work on communities, awarding a total of $13,000.   

“It was amazing to learn about these projects and the difference these faculty members, their colleagues and students are making in the lives of individuals in the region, state, and around the world,” said Birgit Green, Associate Vice Provost for Outreach and Engagement. “Several of the award recipients shared the stage with their community partners who had equally contributed their knowledge and experience to the projects and helped make them a success.”

Engagement Week also hosted Terrence Coffie on Wednesday, April 17th. Coffie spoke to Texas Tech faculty, leadership, and staff about the importance of community collaboration for achieving social change. With over 220 attendees, Coffie shared inspiring stories of communities creating positive change together, discussed key insights, and highlighted common challenges and strategies for overcoming them.

Innovation Week

The final week of Discoveries to Impact kicked off with the first Artificial Intelligence (AI) Summit at the Texas Tech Innovation Hub. A partnership with Amarillo College and the Innovation Outpost, the Innovation Hub hosted 127 community partners, faculty, and staff interested in implementing Generative AI in their colleges or startups. 

On Wednesday, April 24th, the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Research Innovation, Collaboration, and Entrerpeneurship Division saw students in healthcare and engineering share their innovative research. Two projects received $500 people's choice awards:

  • Myelin: Well, You Ae Wearing a Helmet, Now Let's Make Sure It Still Works When You Need It Most | Marilyn Mathew ($500 Healthcare People's Choice Award)
  • Development of an Automated Water Efficient Cleaning System for Solar Panels | Ali Soban ($500 Engineering People's Choice Award)

The session also featured an Innovation Launchpad Panel Discussion which boasted 55 attendees.

The Texas Tech Accelerator Graduation and Ribbon Cutting celebrated the 8 graduating startup teams and the 2024-2025 incoming cohort. The event highlighted the graduating teams' growth throughout the past year and welcomed the incoming 14 teams with a ribbon cutting with the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce. 

Ending the month, CISER hosted its 20th annual Research Retreat at the Texas Tech University Campus at Junction on April 16th-28th. The retreat welcomed undergraduate Research Scholars, graduate students, faculty leaders, and alumni.

“35 of CISER's alumni and Undergraduate Research Scholars enjoyed retreating to our amazing TTU Junction Campus and exploring the Mason Mountain Wildlife Management Area,” shares Lou Densmore and Julie Isom, CISER Directors for Undergraduate Research. “The alumni Scholars shared their path since graduation and connected us all with their impactful stories. The experience was a fun and perfect culmination of the stellar Discoveries to Impact Month!”

Overall, the Discoveries to Impact Month serves as a dynamic forum for advancing knowledge, fostering innovation, and addressing the pressing challenges of our time by showcasing entrepreneurs, innovators, engaged scholars, and undergraduate researchers.