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SURF celebrates student research

An annual event that recognizes undergraduate scholarship took place Tuesday with poster displays during College Coffee and dozens of presentations across campus by students whose research interests ranged from chemical synthesis processes to the politics of smoking in North Carolina.

“My research is not something I was involved with in class, and may not have had incentive to do, had I not been able to share with professors and other students in the community,” said Stefanie Meyers, who presented during SURF 2008.

The annual Student Undergraduate Research Forum on April 29, 2008, spotlighted work from more than 100 students who made presentations about their scholarship in academic disciplines as diverse as biology, political science, art, economics and religious studies.

Each April, Elon suspends classes for a day to highlight the undergraduate research efforts of its students. SURF started in 1993, and this week, just like in years past, students used the concourse inside the Center for the Arts to publicize their posters.

The day is part of CELEBRATE! 2008, a week-long series of activities to recognize student achievement in academics and the arts.

“This is a great way for students to get out what they’ve been working on all year,” said Bianca Sassine, an Elon senior who worked with junior Carly Price on their poster presentation, Parent-Child Interactions During Storybook Reading. “There’s more to college than just going to class and doing homework.”

What did the two students discover? After observing the way several sets of parents read storybooks to their 3-year-old children, Sassine and Price – under the guidance of faculty mentor Maureen Vandermaas-Peeler – saw that mothers are significantly more likely to make elaborate descriptions and provide feedback to their sons, and fathers to their daughters, than when reading to a child of the same sex.

Fathers should pay particular attention to how they interact with their sons when reading, Sassine said, suggesting that parents should, “Read with your kids and talk with them.”

Elon junior Daniel Mauney, under the direction of faculty mentor Karl Sienerth in the chemistry department, displayed a poster with results titled “Carbon Dioxide Conversion Catalysts in a Stable Room Temperature Ionic Liquid.”

In short, Mauney said, he is looking for ways to easily convert carbon dioxide into useful compounds like ethanol or methanol for biofuels, or even carbon monoxide, which can act as fuel in space travel.

“People get the chance to show their peers around Elon what they’ve been going with their research and then be recognized for it,” Mauney said.

Dozens of students also made presentations to audiences in several locations on campus, from the classrooms of the McMichael science building to Yeager Recital Hall. Stefanie Meyers, a junior in the School of Communications who was under the guidance of Associate Dean Connie Book, made one such presentation.

Her research, An Examination of the Use of Anecdotal Evidence in the FCC’s Report and Order on Video Franchising, found that a recent report by the Federal Communications Commission omitted many of the viewpoints by town governments across the country when it comes to licensing cable and telephone providers.

Instead, she said, the FCC cited extensively from the viewpoints submitted to it by lobbyists from the telecommunications industry that stood to profit from certain recommendations. She reached her conclusions by examining the report, then comparing it with thousands of comments sent by the public, town governments and telecommunication firms.

Meyers said that SURF encourages students to do more than just class work.

“My research is not something I was involved with in class, and may not have had incentive to do, had I not been able to share with professors and other students in the community,” she said.

Tuesday’s events conclude with a SURF awards ceremony and banquet, a 7:30 p.m. concert by the Elon University Orchestra in McCrary Theatre, and a festival of student-directed works as part of a musical theatre project at 7:30 p.m. in the Black Box Theatre.

Eric Townsend,
5/5/2008 8:01 AM