Campus News

UGA’s April 6 undergraduate research symposium adds new features

UGA's April 6 undergraduate research symposium adds new features as it grows and expands for 2009

Athens, Ga. – More than 200 University of Georgia students who participate in undergraduate research will have an opportunity to share the results of their work with a larger audience at the annual spring symposium sponsored by the Honors Program’s Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities. This year’s symposium, which will be held on Monday, April 6 at the Classic Center in downtown Athens, is open to the public.

The CURO symposium, which has been presented every year since 2000, continues to grow- with increased participation by students and a wider variety of original research and creative works represented from the bench sciences to advanced research in the arts.

UGA economics professor Christopher Cornwell will deliver the keynote address, entitled “Where The Boys Aren’t: Sex-ratio Imbalances and Risky Sexual Behavior,” at 4 p.m. in Athena Ballroom E. Recipients of CURO’s undergraduate research mentoring awards will then be recognized.

“Conducting original research with faculty guidance, including sharing findings with a broader audience such as in the CURO symposium, is no longer reserved for graduate students,” said Pamela Kleiber, associate director of the Honors Program. “The CURO symposium provides a supportive but demanding opportunity for undergraduates to share original research that has been guided by top faculty researchers at UGA. Presentation at the CURO symposium is often the first and seldom the last scholarly opportunity for these students.”

Combining research interests and career pursuits has been the path Long Doan, a senior international business major from Savannah, has taken while conducting undergraduate research with sociology professor Dawn Robinson, his faculty research mentor. Doan is studying the theoretical distinction between moods and emotions and how people’s occupations may affect their emotions.

“Being able to work with a faculty mentor who lets you venture out on your own is intellectually stimulating,” said Doan, who would like to become a sociologist. “The experience has prepared me for graduate school and has opened so many doors, including presenting at the CURO undergraduate research symposium in Costa Rica in 2007 and many conferences and travel opportunities, while allowing me to network with people who have similar interests.”

Caitlin McLaughlin’s research project emerged after taking a class with political science professor Daniel Kapust, now her research mentor. McLaughlin, a senior with a double major in political science and history from Raleigh, N.C., is examining why the writers of the U.S. Constitution did not include term limits, especially since some seemed to be pessimistic about human nature and the potential for abusing authority.

“My research reveals that the framers of the Constitution often had very different motivations and perspectives and that the document created was not necessarily the result of consensus, but often of compromise,” said McLaughlin, who is presenting for the first time at the CURO symposium. “This finding is especially relevant to me personally because I plan to pursue a law career and I will encounter issues of constitutional law often. Presenting at the symposium will be an exciting opportunity for me to share my enthusiasm for legal history with people of many varied interests.”

Reid Brown, a senior ecology major from Athens, found that his project gave him a more focused direction to pursue in freshwater ecology, and also the hands-on field experience of dealing with a current environmental issue. With faculty mentor Amy Rosemond from the Odum School of Ecology, he is determining the effect that land-use of watersheds has on small streams, comparing streams in urban, suburban, industrial and forested locations.

“Since much of the Southeast obtains its drinking water from reservoirs and rivers, polluting our streams in turn pollutes our drinking water,” said Brown, who would like to obtain a master’s degree in environmental restoration, specializing in wetlands and streams. “With water scarcity increasing as a regional issue, understanding how we impact the stream and river systems will become more and more important.”

This year’s symposium also will include more expansive visual and performing arts content that emphasizes new directions in arts research. The art presentations and exhibition have been coordinated with the assistance of Mark Callahan, who serves as artistic director forIdeas for Creative Exploration,an interdisciplinary initiative for advanced research in the arts at UGA.

“This symposium will feature students engaged with a variety of approaches to research in the arts, ranging from cutting-edge digital technology to new ways of applying traditional methods,” said Callahan, a faculty member in the Lamar Dodd School of Art.

One such student is Kelly Nielsen, a senior theater major from Brooklet, who is investigating the role of physical space as used in “invisible” theater performances, a technique developed by innovative Brazilian theater practitioner Augusto Boal to draw attention to social injustices during a ban of activist theater performances. As part of her project under the guidance of theater professor George Contini, Nielsen developed a scene addressing verbal abuse in domestic relationships that was performed in public locations such as a large retail store, while the passing audience is unaware that it is a stage performance.

“When I was younger, I wondered how anyone could find original ideas to research,” said Nielsen, who would like to pursue a career in academia or non-profit theater environment used for community-building and education. “When I came across invisible theatre and wanted to learn more, it was very difficult to find any research on the subject. It’s been a rewarding experience to learn and contribute my knowledge to invisible theatre. Research has provided a focus for my education.”

UGA buses will run continuous service to the venue from stops at Memorial Hall and the Georgia Center from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Parking is free at the Classic Center for CURO symposium attendees as well.

For more information about the 2009 CURO symposium and the complete schedule, see