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SOURCE program highlights undergraduate research

Students who undertook research with Elon faculty mentors over the summer formally presented their work in a new program on Sept. 14.

The September Symposium on Undergraduate Research & Creative Endeavors is a new component of the Undergraduate Research Program at Elon University.


Participants in the 2012 Summer Undergraduate Research Experience made final presentations Friday afternoon of the work they conducted with faculty mentors in recent months in one of Elon University’s premier opportunities for young scholars.

The Sept. 14 afternoon presentations in Alamance and Whitley Auditorium marked the first time in SURE program history that student findings were shared in a formal manner during a fall semester. Scholars typically give presentations in July - this summer was no exception - but undergraduate research proponents wanted a new way to expose the Elon community to the opportunities that exist for students who partner with faculty mentors.

Research topics selected by the 42 scholars ranged from the measurement of memory retrieval to the effects of nicotine on gastrointestinal biology and disease. Scholars also explored the diversity among NCAA Division I softball coaching staffs; inequities in the Ghanaian cocoa trade and subsequent community impacts; and the development of LGBTQ rights in Eastern Europe, among many other fields of study.

“We want to showcase really, really good undergraduate research to the campus,” Professor Paul Miller, who leads the Undergraduate Research Program, said of the September Symposium on Undergraduate Research & Creative Endeavors, or "SOURCE" for short. “When you do this over the summer, students not participating in SURE couldn’t get to see all the high-level work that their classmates are doing. This is one example of things we’re trying to do to knit together Elon’s intellectual community.”

Forty-two undergraduate researchers gave presentations Sept. 14 on the work they conducted with faculty mentors over the summer.

The work that was publicized Friday took place mostly on campus over the summer, but the summer research program also funds undergraduate scholarly endeavors overseas.

One such project was field work by senior Margaret "Maggie" Frates, an anthropology major from Lakeland, Fla., who traveled to Belize for excavating the ancient Mayan site of Dos Hombres for ceramics and pottery. Working under the guidance of Assistant Professor Rissa Trachman, Frates sought indicators of the social status of the people who once lived on the site.

Frates described in her presentation how some archaeologists who study the Mayan culture theorize that earthenware was a sign of class in among the Mayans. Frates unearthed several fragments of pottery during her travels to Central America, which she said would not have been possible without the grant.

For both Frates and Trachman, the September symposium was an opportunity to share their work while hearing feedback from classmates and colleagues. "You get lost in your research sometimes and don't always see the bigger picture," Frates said. "Sometimes people have broader questions that we've been too focused to see."

Eric Townsend,
9/17/2012 8:31 AM