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Student presentations cap 2010 summer research program

Thirty-five students shared findings this week from recent work on campus as part of the Summer Undergraduate Research Experiences, an eight-week program where scholars work full-time on a project in collaboration with a faculty mentor with expertise in the discipline.

Senior Samuel Shoge shared data on Friday from his work comparing the impact of impervious surface changes in water quality in Alamance County over the past 26 years.

This summer marked the largest participation in SURE since its founding in 1998. Friday morning presentations made on the third floor of the Koury Business Center reflected that statistic.

Topics ranged from crime knowledge and beliefs, to the effects of gasoline prices on time use of teenagers, with some students even fielding questions from Elon President Leo M. Lambert.

Scholars said that SURE offered several benefits unrelated to the final results of their projects.

“The biggest thing I learned from SURE was patience and perseverance,” senior Drew Gardner, an exercise science major who explored the influence of concussions on cognitive performance, said during a break in the sessions. “So many things can go wrong with research. It’s always changing, and you have to be ready to adapt.”

Students and mentors receive a $3,000 stipend for their work. The competitive program requires applicants to submit a research proposal in the spring, along with a letter of recommendation from their research mentor and a transcript. A minimum GPA of 3.0 is required.

Senior Leah Krieger was one of 35 undergraduate researchers to give a presentation this week as part of the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience program.

While the program is open to all students, it draws mainly juniors and seniors, most of whom are planning to further their studies in graduate school after completing their Elon degrees. Seniors Rachel Perron and Lauren Finn received a 2010 Joseph Powell SURE Fellowship, awarded each summer to the top one or two SURE applicants for the upcoming season.

The Elon University professor overseeing SURE said he is already looking ahead to next year with ideas for expanding the program.

“I’d like to see us develop alumni connections, and to strengthen those we’ve already established,” said professor Paul Miller, director of undergraduate research at Elon University and the faculty member overseeing SURE. “What we’re starting to see is the development of a community of scholars.”

For senior Leah Krieger, a chemistry major who conducted research with associate professor Joel Karty, the program offered an opportunity to work on her Honors thesis.

“The SURE experience was good for me because I went abroad for the fall semester in my junior year, and I felt I was behind with research,” she said. “This summer was perfect for gathering data. We did a lot that would have taken even more time during the regular semester.”

Others saw SURE as a way to build on research interests outside their declared majors. Such was the case for Jenny Schnaak, a senior English major, who studied attitudes consumers and farmers have toward the local food movement in North Carolina.

“I’ve been able to put into practice a lot of writing strategies taught in my major,” she said. “I’ve learned how to observe a ‘contact zone,’ such as a farmer’s market, and write furiously to take in as much as a I can about people.”

Then there was the professional experience, and what it can do for future career and graduate school prospects.

“This is one of the best things I’ve done,” Daniel Rapp, a sophomore working with assistant professor Ben Evans, said of his work in the lab. “It’s a good thing to have on my resume, and you get a lot of practice for what you’ll be doing in the field.”

Eric Townsend,
7/23/2010 3:52 PM