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Undergraduate research gains more interest for annual statewide conference

October 30, 2019

Research projects that span the disciplines from science and math to art and modern languages appear to gain ground every year based on the submissions to the Georgia Undergraduate Research Conference (GURC).

"Last year, 180 abstracts were submitted to GURC. We had 238 submissions this year," said Dr. Anastasia Lin, assistant vice president of research and engagement at the University of North Georgia (UNG). "We have increased the size of the conference to accommodate these submissions."

More than 40 UNG students are expected to present at the annual event Nov. 1-2 on UNG's Gainesville Campus, according to UNG's Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (CURCA).

"The purpose of Georgia Undergraduate Research Conference is to support undergraduate research across the state of Georgia," Lin said. "The conference features student research from the hard sciences to the humanities and everything in between."

Students will deliver their research through oral and visual presentations, poster sessions and performances on Saturday, Nov. 2, in the Martha T. Nesbitt Academic Building.  Individual registration for the conference, including the keynote speaker and lunch on Saturday, costs $60. Friends, family and UNG students are allowed to attend single sessions for free, though registration is required for the keynote, luncheon, and Friday night reception.

UNG junior Jose Alcalde will present for the first time. The first-generation student pursuing a biology degree said he felt great when he was selected for GURC. He will produce his lab research results about plants' chemical compounds that attract or repel ants.

"I worked really hard on my abstract that I sent in for review," said the 21-year-old from Elberton, Georgia. "I had a lot of people proofread it and help me out. This experience helped me write better."

Maggie Woodall, a junior pursuing a biology degree, is experienced at presenting research at conferences, with one last year and two earlier this year. The skills she learns with each project have measurable benefits for the first-generation student whose goal is to work in wildlife ecology or wildlife management.

"It's teaching me skills that I will have to use later in life like how to do field work and conduct research to get as much good data as possible," she said.

Lin said national data has revealed undergraduate research leads to increased critical thinking skills and persistence among students.

"Students are more engaged and more compelled to complete their undergraduate degree," she said.

For Madison Rodriguez, a junior pursuing a psychology degree, the research project helped her determine her future path. She completed research on the Realizing Inspiring Successful Educators (RISE) undergraduate program, which helps heritage Spanish-speaking students earn a college degree and become teachers in Hall County. She plans to use the information as an idea for her undergraduate thesis.

"I've been a psychology major since the beginning, but I was not certain about graduate school," she said, noting graduate school may now be a possibility. "By doing research over the summer, it really made me feel like I was making a difference."

GURC participants will see the effect research can have on a person's career when they hear keynote speaker Dr. Alicia Cunningham-Bryant. She is a museum archivist and curator with bachelor's degrees in history and archeology and doctoral degree from Yale in near Eastern languages and civilizations. She also is the Kim T. Adamson Endowed Professorship in the Honors College at Westminster College.

Representatives from several universities will be on hand Saturday for the Graduate School Fair. On Friday, an opening night reception will feature activities to encourage networking.

For more information, visit Georgia Undergraduate Research Conference website.

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