Campus News

University of Georgia CURO symposium set for March 29

University of Georgia CURO symposium set for March 29

Athens, Ga. – More than 200 University of Georgia students will participate in oral presentations, poster sessions and thesis roundtables at the 2010 undergraduate research symposium hosted by the Honors Program’s Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities. The annual event, which is open to the public, will be held Monday, March 29 at the Classic Center in downtown Athens.

The eleventh annual CURO symposium provides a public forum for student presentations and performances in the arts, humanities, life sciences and social sciences.The students usually have worked on their projects and creative works for at least a year under the guidance of faculty research mentors who are leaders in their fields.

UGA anthropology professor Peter Brosius, who also serves as director of UGA’s Center for Integrative Conservation Research, will give the keynote address, “Conservation and the Global Search for Sustainability” at 4 p.m. in Athena Ballroom E.Thepresentation of CURO’s undergraduate research mentoring awards will immediately follow.

“Because of the strong institutional and faculty support for undergraduate research on this campus, CURO has tripled the number of participants since the first symposium in 2000,” said Pamela Kleiber, associate director of the UGA Honors Program. “The CURO Symposium is unique among research universities.”

Sophomore Francisco Marrero, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and wants to become a pharmacist, will be participating for the first time in the CURO symposium.He says the symposium provides a good opportunity to present original work, explain a technical subject and network with peers.

Marrero, who is from Columbus, is working on a project focused on droplet microfluidics, which involves manipulating very small amounts of liquid through a device.This technology can lead to applications in biology, chemistry, engineering and physics.His research mentors are chemistry professor Jason Locklin and Faculty of Engineering professor Leidong Mao.

Mao says the faculty-student relationship is mutually beneficial.

“For young faculty members like me, working with smart and diligent undergraduate students is very rewarding,” he said. “I have the chance to try out some new, interesting and sometimes ‘high-risk’ scientific ideas with undergraduate students.For the students, this will give them the chance to work on cutting-edge research projects and learn valuable lessons on how to seek help from faculty, how to collaborate with others and how to present themselves in front of peers.”

Senior Erin Hansen, who is from Lilburn, says her research experience working with patients has helped prepare her for medical school next year.She is currently studying rapid eye movements and the corresponding brain activity in schizophrenic patients that may lead to new treatment options for the individuals. Her research mentor is psychology professor Jennifer McDowell, who also serves as co-director of the UGA Cognitive and Clinical Neuroscience Laboratory.

“It is rewarding to know that I am contributing to scientific knowledge,” said Hansen, who is pursuing bachelor’s degrees in biology and psychology.“Working in Dr. McDowell’s lab has allowed me to not only learn about research, but also has given me a faculty mentor who has been able to guide me through college and who has gotten me involved in many projects that I never imagined myself doing, such as the CURO symposium.”

Sophomore Amar Mirza, who is from Hiram, is laying the groundwork for his future career as a clinical researcher through participating in undergraduate research in the biochemistry and molecular biology laboratory of Natarajan Kannan.His project involves studying specific mutations in tyrosine kinases, a family of proteins commonly mutated in cancer, in a three-dimensional virtual environment to better understand how the mutations alter the structure and function of theproteins. It was the first-ever evolutionary study of this protein family, which is gaining rapid attention from other scientists.

“Conducting research and presenting at a symposium gives you the opportunity to step outside of your own little world of research,” said Mirza, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology.“Most labs are so specialized that it is easy to lose perspective on how your work fits in with the rest of the world.Presenting your work forces you to take a step back and explain it in more broad terms.”

Mirza also will be exploring his research artistically by presenting an image of one of the crystal structures of a full-length tyrosine kinases that he colorized to resemble the breast cancer awareness ribbon.“I hope that the art will make the hard science more accessible and allow the presenters to interact with a broader audience,” he said.

Sponsors for the CURO Symposium include the President’s Office, the Office of the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost, the Office of the Vice President for Instruction, the Office of the Vice President for Research, the Alumni Association and the Athletic Association.

UGA buses will be running from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. to the Classic Center from stops at Memorial Hall on Sanford Drive and the Georgia Center on Carlton Street.Free parking also is available at the Classic Center for CURO symposium attendees.

For more information on the 2010 CURO symposium, see and click on CURO.