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SURF 2012 celebrates student & faculty research

Elon’s annual Spring Undergraduate Research Forum highlights some of the best recent scholarship by university students and professors.


Elon University students and professors shared with the campus community on Tuesday the findings of their scholarly achievements during an annual celebration of undergraduate research.

From poster sessions in McKinnon Hall to research presentations in the Koury Business Center, the 2012 Spring Undergraduate Research Forum featured hundreds of students who have worked closely with faculty mentors over the past year.

Started in 1993, the Spring Undergraduate Research Forum is part of the larger CELEBRATE! Week annual program that showcases scholarship and creative achievements at Elon University.

“This morning has been a huge success,” said Angela Lewellyn Jones, who led a CELEBRATE! Week organizing committee as associate dean of Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences. “I love having the faculty and students together for professors to model how you can present research professionally.

“And this helps students feel as though their work is just as important as that of our professors,” Jones continued. “If Elon is about engaged learning, where we encourage students to participate in undergraduate research, service learning and study abroad, we need to demonstrate how important it is.”

Grace Foster, a senior economics major and Honors Fellow from outside Philadelphia, presented research Tuesday in which she demonstrated that students from single-sex high schools are more likely to take part in extracurricular activities.

Such participation can have a lasting impact on future economic earnings, she added. Under the guidance of Assistant Professor Katy Rouse, Foster used several economic models to reach her findings, which she had shared twice already at other economic conferences prior to SURF.

“This is the first time I’ve presented to Elon classmates and my professors,” said Foster, who had previously shared her work at an Eastern Economic Association meeting in Boston and at a meeting of the Midwest Economics Association in Illinois. “What I looked for was feedback on where I could have done better and tips for the future.”

Like Foster, Elon junior Rachel Wilson used SURF as an opportunity to hone her own presentation skills. Wilson, a biochemistry major from Durham, N.C., working with Assistant Professor Vickie Moore, is researching the way chemotherapy affects certain proteins in prostate cells.

The SURF events give her a venue to share her passion with a wide audience from various academic backgrounds.

“I’m in the lab all day and a lot of people, even in the biology and chemistry departments, don’t really know what I’m doing,” Wilson said. “To be able to show them what I’ve done and how it could be relevant to their lives is a really neat thing.”

That, says organizers, is one of the day’s guiding principles.

“It’s knitting together a scholarly and intellectual community,” said Professor Paul Miller, director of undergraduate research at the university. “This shows that scholarship is something students leave here with as a mechanism for self-learning, and as a mechanism to help others learn. (Today’s programs) say to students, ‘I can do this. It can be part of my life’s work.’”


Eric Townsend,
4/24/2012 3:33 PM