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Undergraduates shine at state conference

GURC feature
UNG students examine a poster at the Georgia Undergraduate Research Conference, held Jan. 24-25 at Columbus State University in Columbus, Ga.

Twelve students from multiple campuses of the University of North Georgia (UNG) recently presented the research contributions they are already making to their fields at the Georgia Undergraduate Research Conference.

"Conferences like these allow our students to further grow their research, develop new ideas, and engage with scholars from around the state," said Dr. Stacy Turner, assistant dean of student research and scholarship and mentor to several of the attending students.

The conference, held Jan. 24-25 at Columbus State University in Columbus, Ga., and others like it offer opportunities for students to present their work to peers and faculty from other institutions, and field experts who often attend as speakers and mentors. Several UNG faculty members accompanied their students to the conference.

Jimma Blackwell with poster
Jimma Blackwell with her award-winning poster.

"This conference surpassed my expectations and eliminated my fears," said Jimma Blackwell, who won the Best Poster Award. "All the judges were kind, respectful, and they were not in the least bit intimidating. They took interest in my project, and even asked me about my plans for graduation. Everyone there made the presentations so fun. I enjoyed myself so thoroughly someone had to come inform me that my time was up and poster presentations were over. I had the best experience, and if I weren't graduating I would do it again in a heartbeat."

Blackwell, also a participant in UNG's Faculty-Undergraduate Summer Engagement (FUSE) program this past year, presented her research that seeks to identify more accurate and cost-effective ways of testing for salmonella in the poultry industry.

"Jimma's undergraduate research project, which is in conjunction with the Georgia Poultry Laboratory, has given her hands-on, real-world research experience," said Dr. Jeanelle Morgan, assistant professor of biology and Blackwell's mentor. "This opportunity has allowed her to develop her laboratory techniques as well as her analytical and problem-solving skills, which will undoubtedly be an asset to her as she continues her professional career."

Though research topics are often associated with sciences such as biology and chemistry, UNG encourages undergraduate research in all disciplines through a variety of conferences and research initiatives.

Student Teri Jones presented her research on how authors who were considered minimalists may have communicated their stories beyond the use of words. She used visual art to demonstrate how her subject, Raymond Carver's "Cathedral," employs a narrative style meant to shift focus from the surface of the story, though the words used may often draw attention to themselves.

"It is always exciting to present your work to others. While preparation for the event can be demanding, the rewards exceed the work involved," Jones said. "Disseminating one's work opens up other opportunities for the student, and while my work did not win, I was approached with an opportunity to publish. Additionally, since many students might be transitioning into jobs where public speaking is integral, the oration practice is invaluable, and teaches you how to be a better speaker."

Student Jake Ashmore presented research in socioeconomics, examining the economics in how U.S. citizens respond to illegal immigration.

Other UNG students presented in areas such as English, literature, social studies, biology, and gender studies.

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