Outstanding Presentations, Turnout for 2014 Undergraduate Research Conference

April 16, 2014  |  by Michael Freedman

  • Undergraduate Research Conference
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  • Undergraduate Research Conference
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  • Undergraduate Research Conference
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Niagara University’s annual Undergraduate Research Conference took place Friday, April 11, with 125 students presenting their findings to the campus community. Morning panel discussions were held in St. Vincent’s Hall, while posters illustrating the students’ work filled the Castellani Art Museum in the afternoon.

The event was sponsored by the University Honors Program.

Research topics varied widely, from Kathleen Brown’s examination of a political candidate’s attractiveness affecting voting behavior and Michelle Heemskerk’s study of the emotional readiness of children entering kindergarten, to James Lioi’s genomic analysis of staphylococcus bacteriophage and Michael Crist’s interpretation of the Affordable Care Act through the lens of ideology.

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The museum’s main gallery area was bustling all afternoon with people eager to learn more about the students’ work. Organizers suggested that it was the best-attended Undergraduate Research Conference in years, all the more impressive given Friday’s sunny, moderate weather conducive to outdoor activities.

“I’m really pleased with both the quality of the research presentations and the outstanding turnout of the campus community,” said Dr. Michael Barnwell, associate philosophy professor and coordinator of the University Honors Program. “This is really a way to showcase all of the research that NU students are doing, and it speaks to the level of engagement that undergraduate students have with their professors at Niagara.”

Indeed, by the time Niagara University students are seniors, nearly half are engaged in research with their professors. According to a national survey, that is almost double the rate reported by students at nearly 600 colleges and universities throughout the United States.

And that number may be growing.

One academic program that made an uncustomary appearance at this year’s conference was computer and information sciences. Nine CIS students were at the conference discussing mobile applications they’d developed for Android devices. Assistant professor Yonghong Tong, Ph.D., who’s finishing up his first year as a Niagara faculty member, hopes to make the event a regular occasion for his students.

“This is a great experience for these students – for them to be able to communicate with others about what they’re doing is invaluable, and to put their name in the program is a resume builder.”