UGA undergraduate to share research annual CURO symposium

UGA undergraduates to share research at annual CURO symposium

Athens, Ga. – With numerous undergraduate research options available at the University of Georgia, students benefit from an opportunity to also share the results of their research with a larger audience. One way is through the Honors Program’s Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities spring symposium that will be held on April 6 at The Classic Center in downtown Athens. Applications to participate in the CURO symposium are now being accepted by the Honors Program.

“The research process includes sharing results and engaging in discussions about the significance and implications of the results,” said Pamela Kleiber, associate director of UGA’s Honors Program. “The sophistication of the research our undergraduates undertake contributes to an exciting and highly professional symposium.”

Students with a 3.4 minimum grade point average who work on an original project under the guidance of a faculty member are invited to participate. Research projects completed at UGA cover a myriad of disciplines and are presented in various formats, including exhibitions and performances as well as poster and oral presentations.

For Carolyn Crist, a junior newspapers major, conducting research will only enhance the skills she has developed while working for The Red & Black independent student newspaper and for her hometown newspaper, The Times-Herald in Newnan. She hopes to participate in the 2009 CURO symposium, which would be her first time presenting her project to an outside audience.

“Research is definitely a different experience and expands the way I gather information as a journalist and brings a different view to the way I approach stories in general,” said Crist, who will serve as the editor-in-chief of The Red & Black during spring semester. “At the same time, conducting research is important no matter what field of study. Memorization and routine practice are necessary to grasp a concept, but when you have a passion and invest time in a topic through research, the learning process becomes more personal and tangible.”

Crist spent the summer investigating the way journalists perceive and report on poverty in their communities by looking at 15 community newspapers located in impoverished areas. Her faculty research mentors are John Greenman, Carter Professor of Journalism, and Diane Murray, director of public service and outreach in UGA’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Greenman, who has more than 35 years of experience in newspapers as a reporter and publisher, credits Crist for her contribution to the Grady research. “Carolyn’s work underpinned an important rationale for widening and deepening coverage of poverty in persistently poor markets,” he said. “It’s not too early for students of Carolyn’s promise to work side-by-side with faculty researchers.”

“Carolyn’s research helped me immeasurably,” added Murray. “As PSO director for the Grady College, I seek out ways the college can share its resources with the people of Georgia. If we can help journalists, who are the storytellers for their communities, be more aware of the problems facing their readers, viewers and listeners, we can help those communities as a whole.”

Neeraj Sriram, a sophomore pursuing degrees in biochemistry and molecular biology and statistics, says that his metabolic engineering project has not only made him a more critical thinker, but the CURO symposium will help prepare him to participate in future professional conferences. He plans to present his project at the Annual Conference of the Institute of Biological Engineering in March 2009.

“I think it is important for undergraduates to have a chance to present their projects to their peers and established researchers, enabling them to obtain possible feedback on their findings,” said Sriram, who is from Athens. “More importantly, it will give students a good opportunity to communicate their results to an audience.”

Under the guidance of engineering professor Mark Eiteman, Sriram spent the summer studying a key process in efficiently converting plant biomass into ethanol. He focused on a particular strain of E. coli bacteria to see how it would consume sugar mixtures without the aid of its genes responsible for glucose consumption. Since this particular strain still broke down the glucose without those genes, Sriram is now trying to identify other similar genes.

Eiteman, who has mentored over 30 students at the high school and undergraduate levels and visiting interns over the last 17 years, says such experiences bring enthusiasm and fresh perspectives to the research environment. “The experiences have simultaneously provided Neeraj with a sense of the daunting nature of the world, as well as the confidence to go and contribute, while appreciating that the path is more important than the end results,” he said. “Neeraj epitomizes the energetic and independent student who wants to participate in research that makes some contribution in solving the complex issues facing our world today.”

Interested UGA students must submit an application, an abstract of 250 words or less describing the research project, and a letter of support from the sponsoring faculty research mentor via the CURO web site, www.uga.edu/honors/curo. The deadline is Jan. 19 with applicants notified by mid-February.