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North Georgia Students Chosen to Present Research in D.C.

Heather Ivester and Corina Oltean

Heather Ivester, left, and Corina Oltean were chosen to represent
the state of Georgia at the 2011 Posters on the Hill event.

(April 27, 2011) - This semester has been a busy, but rewarding, time for undergraduate students conducting research at North Georgia College & State University. In addition to winning several awards, two students were invited to make presentations in Washington, D.C.

Corina Oltean and Heather Ivester, both of whom have been studying the effects of methamphetamine on mice, were selected to represent the state of Georgia at the 2011 Posters on the Hill event, sponsored by the national Council on Undergraduate Research. Theirs was among the 74 projects chosen from among some 700 that had been submitted.

In addition to presenting posters about their research to directors from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, Oltean and Ivester were able to meet with members of Congress and others. Both said the experience in Washington and their research opportunities at North Georgia had a profound effect on them.

"My experience with undergraduate research at North Georgia has shaped me in many ways and I am so fortunate to have such great mentors and support from North Georgia as a whole," said Oltean, who plans to graduate in December and has applied to dental school. "Posters on the Hill was definitely the 'icing on the cake' and has made my experience at North Georgia something I could have never imagined when I first started as a freshman."

Ivester, who graduates this semester with a bachelor's degree in biology, plans to pursue a master's in anesthesia at Emory.

"I have learned so much from my experience in research. I have gained both confidence and a sense of accomplishment that never would have come from academics alone," Ivester said. "I am an avid supporter of undergraduate research, and I hope more students start taking advantage of the great opportunities at North Georgia."

For the past two years, Dr. Ryan Shanks, assistant professor of biology, and Dr. Steven Lloyd, assistant professor of psychology, have been working with a growing group of students, including Ivester and Oltean, conducting several research projects. They are proud to see all of their students being rewarded for their hard work, which often is interdisciplinary, graduate-level work.

"I think these students are doing graduate-level research, there's no doubt about it. Not only the type of research they're doing, but the way in which they're approaching the research that they are doing -- the hours that they're putting into it, the techniques that they're learning, their ability to present it," Lloyd said. "This is not the kind of experience that most people have the opportunity to get involved in at most colleges. This is unusual."

Both accompanied Oltean and Ivester to Washington, and were excited that their students were selected for the event.

"It's a very competitive program. Submissions are looked at in two ways -- based on scientific merit and the Council on Undergraduate Research also wants to make sure they represent the whole country," Shanks said. "We're very happy that we were chosen. It speaks to the scientific merit and how important the work these students are doing really is."

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