March 19, 2009

Forum highlights research by undergraduates

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE -- At Southern Illinois University Carbondale, undergraduate research opportunities are the rule, not the exception. The public will have an opportunity to see what leading SIUC student researchers are doing at the eighth annual Undergraduate Research Forum next week.

The event will run most of the day on Monday, March 23, in the ballrooms at the Student Center. Organizers invite the public to view the 54 projects scheduled for display from 1 to 3 p.m. that day.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and news crews are welcome to cover the Undergraduate Research Forum. Judges will announce awards starting at 3:30 p.m. For more information, contact Meg Martin, research project specialist, at 618/453-4538 or Heather S. Russell, REACH program assistant, at 618/453-4532.

Started in 2002, the Undergraduate Research Forum is part of the Research-Enriched Academic Challenge -- or REACH -- at SIUC. The event showcases research posters from a wide variety of academic pursuits by students.

The University emphasizes emersing undergraduates in the research experience early in their careers as a means of promoting their scholarship and curiosity, as well as giving them valuable hands-on experience in the field, laboratory or studio.

Meg Martin, research development specialist with the Office of Research Development and Administration at SIUC, said undergraduate research gives students skills they can use after earning their degree as well as a chance to see how their classroom experience applies to the “real world.”

“There’s also a lot of research that shows involving undergraduates in research is beneficial to them in terms of graduation rates and making them better overall students,” Martin said. “They tend to be more ready to deal with unexpected challenges that come up in their academic careers and also work independently.”

The poster forum features current REACH students and many others from across the campus who conducted original research, scholarly or creative projects. Students and faculty will be on hand during the event to explain their projects and results.

The University will award prizes for the top four posters, as well as an Independent Research award for a student operating a project on his or her own. Audience members also will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite research project for the People's Choice award.

Organizers this year added a new award for the top Arts/Creative Project, which will honor scholarship in programs that lend themselves to that area.

REACH officials also will announce the members of next year’s REACH class at the event. The 20 students receiving that honor will receive one-year awards including grants of up to $1,500 for project-related expenses and 10-hour undergraduate assistantships for fall and spring semesters. They will also spend the year working with faculty mentors on research projects.