Showcasing Undergraduate Research

Student scholarship is highlighted at the annual Spring Undergraduate Research Forum.

Elon University students and professors shared research findings and creative work in April at the Spring Undergraduate Research Forum, a day set aside each spring for the campus community to recognize scholarship and faculty mentoring relationships.

Students researched the effect of oral hygiene on cardiac health and brand personalization on consumer attitudes. They looked at cultural uses of traditional plant medicines in rural Haiti and how megachurches share their story in a digital age. They examined microfinance in Bangladesh and conceptions of spirituality among informal Jewish educators.

For the students who take part in undergraduate research, there’s no shortage of ideas to study or creative projects to complete with the help of faculty mentors.

The fruits of those scholarly endeavors were on full display April 26, 2016, during Elon University’s 23nd annual Spring Undergraduate Research Forum, a program that showcases the best work of students who work closely with faculty mentors on academic projects independent from their classroom studies.

This year’s SURF was larger than ever with more than 200 presentations and nearly 240 student scholars. Students also served as moderators during oral presentations in order to provide another avenue to engage in professional activities.

More than 200 students took part in the program, which included poster presentations and a special College Coffee, as well as oral presentations and symposia in buildings across campus. The event takes place each year during CELEBRATE! Week, a celebration of achievements in academic and creative endeavors.

Junior Christopher Greene, a physics and music major, shared his project “Simulations of Emission Lines from the Narrow Line Region in Seyfert Galaxies” as part of Tuesday’s poster session in the Great Hall.

“Presenting my work helps me better understand the research,” Greene said. “There’s so much value in explaining your work to someone who isn’t in your field. You have to cut out the jargon.”

Greene said his faculty mentor Chris Richardson, assistant professor of physics, met with him twice weekly and was very intentional about supporting Greene as he found his own answers, rather than leading him to results.

Students, faculty and staff packed a series of panel and oral presentations throughout the morning and afternoon. Presenting solo and in groups, students covered topics such as an analysis of writings on refugees, the use of hydrogels for biomedical applications and an analysis of news coverage of the Iraq War.

Audrey Zullinger and Nathan Calem, both first-year students, presented their work, “Beyoncé, the Super Bowl and the Black Panther Party: A Content Analysis of the Controversy Surrounding the Half-Time Salute to the Militant Group.” The duo applied scholars’ eyes to reactions to the halftime show and tracked recurring words, symbols and themes.

The day closed with a reception in the Great Hall, which offered time to reflect, collaborate and plan for future research endeavors.

Inspiring the next generation of researchers is part of what SURF is meant to do, organizers said. By watching classmates and professors discuss scholarly projects and the new knowledge they help create, today’s students are often motivated to seek careers as tomorrow’s thought leaders.