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Research events continue with CIRCA and physics conference

CIRCA 2013
Undergraduate research presentation during CIRCA 2013

Two recent conferences on the University of North Georgia's Gainesville campus, one focusing on undergraduate research and the second highlighting physics research and education, continued the string of research-themed events in April.

The Conference for Innovation, Research, and the Creative Arts (CIRCA) allowed undergraduate students to present posters and have panel discussions about their research. CIRCA and the 18th annual Research Conference on the Dahlonega campus were among events highlighting student success leading up to the April 26 inauguration of UNG President Bonita C. Jacobs.

"During these poster sessions and panels, questions are brought up, discussed, and further ideas are generated," said Dr. Anastasia Turner, assistant professor of English and assistant director of the Honors Program. "Student presenters leave CIRCA with new directions for their research."

Charity Witt, who presented "Analyzing the Importance of Color and Orality in Leslie Marmon Silko’s 'Yellow Woman,'" also used the CIRCA experience to prepare for future presentations.

"CIRCA allows me to communicate and present reliable, constructive research as well as prepare for future events when presenting literary research will be required for me," Witt said. "Through research and study of oral tradition, color theory, and symbolism, there is much to learn and respect about Native American culture, and I am fortunate to be able to present this research."

Dr. Evan Lampert, assistant professor of biology and mentor to student Obadi Obadi, said that this kind of research makes students much more marketable for a wide range of careers. The professors who select the student presenters strive to be inclusive in their selections by focusing on ensuring students have identified the "big picture" in the research and that they are making a scholarly contribution to CIRCA, Lampert said.

Obadi, a pre-med student, presented research on what happens to certain plant compounds when ingested by caterpillars. By feeding caterpillar larvae diets with and without antioxidant-rich carotenoids, Obadi was able to discover that carotenoids are stored in the caterpillar's blood.

"Carotenoids have several uses for animals; for instance, they act as an antioxidant and absorb UV light to protect against UV damage," Obadi said. "Carotenoid depositions also play a major role in animal coloration which have an effect on behavior. This project has given me a deeper understanding of the world of science, which has also helped me with my other classes."

CIRCA also serves as an opportunity for collaboration between students in the form of poster and panel discussions. Pete Marshall was one of seven students involved in the poster panel "Twelfth Night on Humanity’s Stage."

"Our project has allowed us the freedom to flourish in a creative environment where we can contribute and share ideas, which resulted in approximately 80 pages of original papers and several poster presentations," Marshall said. "An understanding of teamwork and collaboration is one concept we hope attendees of our poster presentation walk away with, including how the communal process leads to greater knowledge and productivity."

Student presentation panel
Students present research then field questions.

Dr. Jeanelle Morgan, assistant professor of biology, mentored three students groups presenting at CIRCA, and said that these events are advantageous to students, faculty, and the institution.

"The students are able to see the importance of undergraduate research and see what other students are doing," Morgan said. "They practice presentation skills, ask each other questions, and provide different points of view for further analysis. Additionally, studies have found that undergraduate research participants are more likely to pursue graduate education and additional research activity."

Physics faculty also had a chance to present their research at the Spring 2013 Southern-Atlantic Section of the American Association of Physics Teachers (SACS-AAPT). Comprising physics faculty from Georgia and South Carolina, the conference also had several undergraduate research presentations.

"This conference promotes excellence in the teaching and learning of physics," said Dr. J.B. Sharma, professor and assistant department head of physics. "The events included a session that highlighted the active-learning pedagogies that are being implemented in physics classes."

The conference also featured paper sessions and workshops that focused on helping attendees further develop active-learning strategies.

"The UNG Department of Physics remains a leader in undergraduate physics education in our region, and plays a critical role in nurturing mathematical science literacy," Sharma said.

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