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Regional research conference for undergrads benefits students

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More than 250 college students, faculty and staff members from across the Southeast participated in the Georgia Undergraduate Research Conference at the University of North Georgia's (UNG) Gainesville Campus. This was the first time UNG hosted the regional conference. More than 20 panel discussions occurred in morning and afternoon sessions from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Nov. 3 in the Martha T. Nesbitt building. The conference included two poster sessions of more than 44 presentations each.

The Georgia Undergraduate Research Conference experienced a big boost in submissions for its 2018 forum, resulting in more than 250 college students, faculty and staff members from across the Southeast participating in the event at the University of North Georgia (UNG).

This was the first time UNG hosted the regional conference, which rotates to a different school every two years. The annual conference, organized by the Georgia Undergraduate Research Collective, will return to UNG in 2019.

"It's much larger than it has been in the past," said Dr. Anastasia Lin, assistant vice president of research and engagement at UNG and president of the Georgia Undergraduate Research Collective. "We have extended to a full eight-hour day on Saturday."

More than 20 panel discussions occurred in morning and afternoon sessions from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Nov. 3 in the Martha T. Nesbitt building on UNG's Gainesville Campus. The conference included two poster sessions of more than 44 presentations each.

"UNG is proud to be part of the regional conference's growth since it demonstrates an expanded commitment to undergraduate research throughout Georgia," Lin said. "The faculty on the UNG local planning committee and co-chair Allison Galloup (UNG Libraries) are especially to be commended for their hard work in organizing the conference."

Exactly 21 schools were represented, including 14 public and three private Georgia schools, three schools from South Carolina, and one from Colorado. Approximately 75 UNG students participated in panel discussions, poster presentations and acted as moderators or volunteers.

John Blessing, a junior double majoring in history and political science from Gainesville, Georgia, was part of the first panel discussion. He and Lana Goitia delivered a PowerPoint presentation about Syrian refugees in Germany and how their presence has affected its economy.

"I was excited to present something I feel passionate about," Blessing said.

He explained producing research will be a bonus for him when he applies to graduate schools.

"It will differentiate me from other students who apply, because a 4.0 GPA is no longer enough," he said.

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University of North Georgia students Jillian Jay, foreground, and Kiera Chan share their research data after conducting a survey on the ways nonprofits in developing countries help girls receive an education. Chan was the lead author of the research.

Jillian Jay, a senior biology major from Stone Mountain, Georgia, said sharing research data from the project with fellow student and lead author Kiera Chan was her priority. Jay and Chan, a senior majoring in sociology from Dahlonega, Georgia, conducted a survey on the ways nonprofits in developing countries helped girls receive an education.

"I'm excited to … get feedback where we can continue with our research," Jay said.

Thomas Hayes, a junior majoring in computer information systems from Suwanee, Georgia, conducted research about finding ways to mitigate the spread of misinformation on social media networks. His presentation was a first for him, but not the last.

"I looked forward to getting the experience, because I know it won't be my last time," the 27-year-old McNair Scholar said. "And I hope it will lead to having my research published."

Fortunately, Dr. Leigh Dillard can help. The associate professor of English at UNG is the editor-in-chief of "Papers & Publications", a regional, peer-reviewed journal of undergraduate research. She led the panel "What's Next? Preparing for Publication" at the conference.

"Our roundtable discussion was designed to talk about the next steps for students," Dillard said. "Along with publication options, it could also mean presenting at a larger conference, presenting at a conference in a specific discipline or working with a faculty member to better understand professionalization."

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The Georgia Undergraduate Research Conference experienced a big boost in submissions for its 2018 forum, resulting in more than 250 college students, faculty and staff members from across the Southeast participating in the event at the University of North Georgia (UNG).

She also said having a paper published can set students apart during a job interview. Juliana Olesky can attest to that.

The UNG junior majoring in sociology said she added her research and subsequent presentation at GURC to her resume.

"Some people have seen my resume and said, 'This is impressive,'" Olesky said. "And I think graduate schools' admissions offices will see this and think the same."

Lin said the regional conference also acted as a prelude to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, which will be April 11-13 at Kennesaw State University. Abstracts for the national conference are due Dec. 4.

Students interested in learning more about undergraduate research can contact the Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities at CURCA@ung.edu.

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