Symposium showcases undergraduate research

Is theatre an effective tool for social change? What were the effects of sexual violence on African-American women after the Civil War? What is the history of organic food in America?

The answers to these questions and many more will be explored during the fall 2007 Undergraduate Research Symposium from 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13, in the Arts & Sciences Laboratory Sciences Building Rettner Gallery.

Slated to be the largest in the event’s three-year history, the symposium will feature a new partnership with the University’s Howard Hughes Medical Institute scholars and the Career Center.

More than 110 undergraduate students are expected to showcase their research projects through poster presentations and visual and oral presentations during the event, which is free and open to the public.

“Undergraduate research is not just a means to get into graduate school anymore,” said Henry Biggs, Ph.D., associate dean in Arts & Sciences and director of the Office of Undergraduate Research. “It’s a remarkable tool for going into business or any number of other fields. The research projects that undergraduates have completed in the past have proved instrumental in launching those students down great paths. Employers know the rigor involved in completing a full-blown research project, and it can make a student very attractive to a future employer.”

Several local high schools have been invited to attend the symposium, which will feature research from each of the schools on the Danforth Campus.

This year, for the first time, 61 Howard Hughes Medical Institute scholars, who completed summer research in the life sciences, will present at the symposium. Institute participants had held a separate research showing in the past.

More than 20 students who completed summer internships through the Career Center also will present their work.

Students are excited to be able to showcase their research not only to their academic peers but also to the entire University community.

Junior Daniel Silver, majoring in economics in Arts & Sciences, will be presenting “Inconsistent Religious Responses to Economic Change.”

“By participating in the Undergraduate Research Symposium, I am able to take part in an academic dialogue regarding my research,” Silver said. “It provides the opportunity to expand upon my own understanding of the topic and also to share that understanding with the public.”

Junior Lauren Bernstein, a history major in Arts & Sciences, will present her research project “Extralegal Enslavement: Sexualized Violence Across the Color Line, 1880-1920.”

While lynching is traditionally viewed as a crime between men, Bernstein found that shifting the focus to the study of women reveals the complicated interplay of ideas about gender, race and sex in the post-Reconstruction United States.

“The symposium will give me the opportunity to share my original work and to have the experience of explaining its relevance to a wide audience,” Bernstein said.

“I want other undergraduates to know that research doesn’t only occur in labs, and that if you are interested in investigating something about which you are passionate, you can make that happen with University support,” he said. The symposium has come a long way in a short time, starting with just 15 participants in spring 2005.

“I think we are not too far from having a true research day on the Danforth Campus devoted entirely to undergraduate research,” Biggs said. “It’s just amazing to see the things that students are doing here. We’re excited to showcase it in a venue where everyone can see our students’ great accomplishments.”

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