There’s no doubt about it, spring is finally in the air and I could not be more thrilled. All over UNH, students are freeing their hammocks, longboards, bicycles, slack lines, and other outdoor equipment and enjoying the long overdue warm sun and fresh breeze. For most of us, spring means lazy Sundays with lemonade and colorful newly blossomed flowers. However, here at UNH, spring also brings one of the largest academic events on campus. That’s right folks, the 16th annual Undergraduate Research Conference (URC) took place recently at the MUB.
I know, I know. You’re probably ready to forget about academics and schoolwork all together, but I have to say, the URC is a pretty awesome event that I would recommend everyone attend. What exactly is it, you ask? Great question. The conference allows students from different disciplines within the university to showcase their work over the past year. Students from COLSA, COLA, and all of the colleges come together to give the public and their fellow students a little insight into their academic work and achievements. You might be thinking this is boring, but for those of you who are undeclared or wondering what exactly to do with your current major, this event is a great inspiration. Even if you don’t fall into the previous category, the URC is just a great way to understand some of the work of your classmates and friends.
What was really cool for me to see, as a first year student, was that most of the presenting students were seniors. Of course, the conference is open to all students, but it was nice to gain perspective on what one can accomplish in just four short years at UNH. Personally, I’m a political science major and though my focus might have been more within my major, there were a bunch of inspiring posters and projects being presented at the conference this year. Not to mention the variety in different subjects, with topics spanning from “Walking Speed and Quality of Life in Older Adults at Risk for Mobility Limitations” to “Women’s Studies Race Matters”.
In fact, that last study, “Women’s Studies: Race Matters” is a great example of the kind of research and innovative questions that one can find at the URC. This specific project covered women in the prison system. The presenters showed that a majority of the women imprisoned in America (about 65%) are there for nonviolent crimes, and that about 35% of these crimes are in self defense. In another feat of statistics and research, the presenters conveyed that in the modern system, many of the women imprisoned are not only nonviolent, but are from groups largely underrepresented: African Americans, Latinas, members of the LGBT community, the poor and the mentally ill.
As a freshman, my first experience at the URC was definitely a positive one. I was able to learn about topics (such as women in the prison system) that I never really explored before and better understand my research opportunities here at the University of New Hampshire. In an age where scientists and academics are always coming up with the “next big thing” whether that be a cure to a disease or a political theory, it was extremely humbling to understand that even within a fairly structured and sheltered environment, students can begin a necessary exploration into the real world around them.