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February 8, 2010

Students Present Research on Capitol Hill

Research on Capitol Hill
Andrew Hobson explains his research to Rod Decker and  legislators at Research on Capitol Hill.

Utah legislators spent Thursday, January 28, 2010 in the Capitol Rotunda, talking to 31 USU students, as well as a group from the University of Utah, about their undergraduate research.
 
USU created Undergraduate Research Day in 2001, with the goal to communicate to legislators the value of students obtaining their undergraduate education at a research university. The university combined with the University of Utah to share students’ research from different disciplines from around Utah.
 
“One of the benefits of undergraduate research is that it provides a venue for students to apply their classroom skills to real-world issues, and it puts them in the practice of becoming society’s problem solvers,” said Brent Miller, vice president for research.
 
Erin Fleming, sophomore studying fisheries and aquatic science, is one of the students whose research was presented at the event. While working in the Limnology Lab on campus, she has done research on brine shrimp in the Great Salt Lake and the possibility of their role in transferring methylmercury, a toxic metal found in local waterfowl, from the deep brine layer of the South Arm to the birds feeding on them.
 
“Being able to present my research and represent our school at the Capitol is a huge honor,” said Fleming.
 
Fleming’s project is one of 26 different projects that were presented. Students’ research ranges from interpretive programming in local hospitals, to snow goose reproduction, to the impact of math placement exams on students.
 
“The findings of these projects will be far-reaching,” said USU President Stan Albrecht. “Some of them will be published in academic journals, while others will be presented at research conferences throughout the country. Many of them will be used to solve practical problems by guiding action on community and state issues.”
 
Joyce Kinkead, associate vice president for research and director of USU’s undergraduate research, said, “At Utah State, the educational and research missions dovetail beautifully as students get their hands on research. Undergraduate research is one of the few high-impact educational practices that have been demonstrated to have value.”
 
In 1975, Glen L. Taggart, then-president of the university, created the Undergraduate Research Program. It is the second-longest running program in the country, second only to MIT. The program is in its 35th year. A celebration of the 35th birthday will be held during the Student Showcase, which is part of USU’s Research Week, on March 30, 2010 at 11:30 am in the Taggart Student Center.
 
There are hundreds of alumni who have been involved in the Undergraduate Research and Creative Opportunities Program. These students have gone on to be scientists, doctors, teachers, artists and government officials.
 
Being a part of undergraduate research is a great opportunity for students, Fleming said.
 
“It makes your diploma from this university that much more prestigious,” said Fleming. “Undergraduate research is a fairly rare opportunity at other schools, but is more than accessible here. Talk to your teachers and advisers about getting involved today.”
 
Professors and advisers know these are exceptional students with exceptional opportunities, said Miller.
 
“Few aspects of my job are as enjoyable as interacting with USU’s undergraduate researchers and learning about the remarkable things they are doing in the lab, studio, field and library,” said Miller. “I am often amazed at the problems being studied and addressed by pre-career university students.”
 
Kinkead agreed, saying, “Working with undergraduate researchers brings me in contact with extraordinary students. These 31 students represent only the tip of the iceberg in terms of students doing research at USU.”

Writer: Megan Allen, megan.allen@aggiemail.usu.edu
Contact: Joyce Kinkead, joyce.kinkead@usu.edu
 

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