Scores Of Student Researchers To Present Findings At Unh Science And Engineering Symposium
Contact:  David Sims
603-862-5369
Science Writer
Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space
April 19, 2007


DURHAM, N.H. -- On Wednesday, April 25 from 2 to 5 p.m., more than 180 undergraduate students at the University of New Hampshire will present results of their research on a broad spectrum of projects in science and engineering.

The fourth annual Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Symposium (ISE), hosted by the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space (EOS), is part of the university's eighth annual Undergraduate Research Conference (URC), which runs April 23- 28. ISE offers a unique opportunity to visit the world of cutting-edge research at UNH, to discover interdisciplinary connections between issues, and learn about research opportunities for students.

This year’s ISE symposium will be the largest yet and will include 10 undergraduate researchers/presenters from Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina – a historically black university that has partnered with UNH on projects in an effort to recruit students from minority populations into the scientific and technical workforce of the future.

“Our goal this year was to not only increase the number of participating students but also to include faculty from a broad range of science and engineering departments so we can increase the visibility and energize the whole program,” says EOS research assistant professor Ruth Varner, chair of this year’s ISE event.

Students from all corners of UNH work with faculty mentors to conduct scholarly inquiry into topics that intrigue them and engage in a process that teaches creative thinking and problem solving within their chosen disciplines. At the ISE, student presentations will run the gamut from robots and microbial fuel cells to projects building instruments for NASA satellites and studies of turbulence of the solar wind.

Varner notes that the URC-ISE poster sessions provide a unique opportunity for students to summarize their research and present it to their peers as well as a non-scientific audience. “When you have to present your research on a poster or in a talk it requires that you have thought through the process, you have to have a really good handle on the background of your science question,” Varner says.

Some 73 project posters involving 180 students from 20 departments and four colleges will be presented at the event. A panel of 10 experts will judge poster presentations and six $500 awards will be given to students for excellence.

The New Hampshire Space Grant Consortium, headquartered at EOS, funds one of the awards for best poster and has provided travel funds for students, such as those from Elizabeth City State University, to participate. Space Grant also supports students who were awarded UNH Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program fellowships and end up presenting results of their research at URC and ISE.

Says David Bartlett, director of Space Grant and associate director of EOS, “Space Grant's interest is to stimulate more, and more diverse, students to enter science, math, and engineering as a career, and so the philosophy of the URC is certainly consistent with that.” Bartlett adds, “Undertaking research at an early stage creates excitement and incentive for students to continue pursuing their studies in these fields, and also better prepares them for the future by introducing them to the ‘real’ activities of scientists and engineers.”

Indeed, former ISE presenter and award winner Claire Treat would second Bartlett’s assertion.

Treat, who graduated from Mount Holyoke College, did undergraduate research at EOS after winning an internship from the joint UNH-NASA Research & Discover program (http://www.eos.sr.unh.edu/ResearchAndDiscover) in the summer of 2003. This led to a two-year R&D graduate fellowship and an independent research project, with Varner as her advisor, studying aspects of natural methane emissions in peatland – research she ultimately was invited to present at an ISE poster session.

Now a research assistant and lab manager at Michigan State University studying the impacts of climatic change on the carbon balance of Alaskan peatlands, Treat says of her ISE experience, “During my poster presentation, I received some helpful feedback from people regarding other things that I might want to consider, and it was also helpful to see what other students were doing in terms of research projects.”

She adds, “For me, it was also a proud moment to represent undergraduate women in science research, as I was the only woman selected for the award.” Treat went on to present her research to the Ecological Society of America and at American Geophysical Union meetings, and published her findings in the Journal of Geophysical Research –Biogeosciences this past February.

The ISE is an opportunity for students to present their research projects in a professional forum and for all attendees to gain information on the related research activities and opportunities at UNH. Attendees will include UNH faculty, staff, students, university leaders, and members of the public. In addition to student presentations, several UNH research and graduate programs will present information to prospective students.

For the full schedule for this year's Undergraduate Research Conference, including the ISE, directions, and parking information, visit http://www.unh.edu/urc. A video clip of last year’s event is also available at the site.

The ISE event will be held in Morse Hall at 39 College Road. The public is welcome. Refreshments will be served.