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Undergraduate research takes center stage at SURF

Classes were suspended Tuesday, April 24 as Elon students participated in the Student Undergraduate Research Forum (SURF), presenting findings from their research to their peers, faculty and staff. Details...

Each April, Elon suspends classes for a day to highlight the undergraduate research efforts of students. More than 100 students made presentations Tuesday about their research in academic disciplines as diverse as biology, political science, art, economics and religious studies. Students in the performing arts also directed and presented choreographed scenes and dances from musicals.

Senior Robin Newton, a communications major, collaborated with Dr. Kimberly Jones on research last summer as part of the SURE program. Their research focused on the struggles of female healthcare workers in Brazil.

Newton reviewed footage from interviews of five women who worked at Clemente de Faria university hospital. She worked on a documentary of the women that was translated into Portuguese and sent back to the hospital. With this information, “they can possibly take steps to better meet the needs of their workers,” she said.

During her presentation, Newton showed footage of an interview with Jones, to show the student-mentor relationship at work and explain the issues faced by the women. These issues included a need for higher salaries, on-site daycare, benefits for their children, a dedicated phone line to check on children during their shifts and more female representation in the administrative staff of the hospital.

“The struggles that these women face is something that happens all over,” Newton said.

Senior Ashley Black's presentation was titled "Analysis of North Carolina Wastewater Effluent for the Presence of Estrogenic Compounds." Working with her faculty mentor Lisa Ponton, assistant professor of chemistry, Black researched various ways to successfully measure the amount of four estrogenic compounds in wastewater effluent. The presence of estrogenic compounds in rivers and streams can cause disruption to biological life such as fish.

Black visited the wastewater treatment plant in nearby Graham, N.C., to collect samples, then returned to the lab to analyze them. Current EPA standards for the analysis of organic molecules in water samples rely on removal of the compounds using liquid-liquid extraction with methylene chloride. Black's research suggests that this method is ineffective in removing estrogens from water, leading her to explore other methods, including SPE, or solid phase extraction. Black plans to continue her research after finding that SPE, while capable of removing estrogens from wastewater, also causes a significant loss of material in recovery.

For a complete SURF schedule and abstracts of student research, please visit org.elon.edu/urp.

Tuesday's events conclude with a SURF awards ceremony and banquet, a 7:30 p.m. concert by the Elon University Chamber Orchestra in McCrary Theatre, and the student-directed production of the play "Bent," also at 7:30 in the Black Box Theatre.

David Hibbard,
4/24/2007 8:13 PM