Skidmore conference to focus on undergraduate research: Students and professors gather to share the findings of their research

Posted by Julia Leef

On Saturday, Oct. 1, the college will host the first Undergraduate Research Conference, at which students from seven upstate colleges, including Siena College and the College of St. Rose, will discuss 72 topics of interest.

Such topics include the effects of Facebook on college students, banjo-instruction methods in 19th century America and the potential to create safer schools by increasing teachers' awareness of bullying.

The conference is the largest of its kind to be hosted by any of the participating colleges, and has more than 100 students submitting abstracts on their topics both singly and in teams. One of the events at the conference will be a Taiko drum performance to demonstrate the impact of the West on Japanese culture.

"Our aim is to give undergraduates the experience of presenting at a professional meeting without the high registration fees and travel costs of a professional conference," said Bob Turner, associate professor of government and conference organizer. "These experiences are providing undergraduates with the sort of training and education that typically are available only to graduate students."

This conference will be the first academic project sponsored by the New York Six Liberal Arts Consortium, formed in 2009 by Skidmore College, Union College, Colgate University, Hamilton College, St. Lawrence University and Hobart William Smith College, the last of which is the only college not sending students to this event. Amy Cronin, coordinator for the consortium, predicts it will not be the last conference of its kind.

"Given the fantastic response to the call for presentations for this initial event, I anticipate that it will become an annual fixture in the consortium's activities," Cronin said.

"This conference has the potential to transform both the students and our respective institutions," Turner said. "When students present their research and answer the questions of their peers, it stimulates their intellectual creativity and aspirations as they see how their colleagues analyze different questions using other methods."

Many of the students attending the conference have spent the past summer working in laboratories with their professors, who also will be attending. Students have been working in a wide variety of areas, including gene replacement and climatology. In addition, some have studied the formation of the galaxies and the human senses, and some have conducted studies on animals and human diseases.

"I hope the conference will identify shared intellectual passions that lead to collaborative research and teaching opportunities among the schools that allow us to tap into our collective expertise in the future," Turner said.

The conference will start at 9:30 a.m. and is open to the public. The schedule and program can be found on the Skidmore website.

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