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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

UNCP forum celebrates undergraduate research and creativity

The University of North Carolina at Pembroke celebrated the first Undergraduate Research and Creativity Forum on April 16.

Kristen Arnett with faculty research advisor Dr. Paul Flowers with a poster that will be displayed at “Posters on the Hill” in Washington D.C.

Kristen Arnett with faculty research advisor Dr. Paul Flowers with a poster that will be displayed at “Posters on the Hill” in Washington D.C.

Dr. Jesse Peters, dean of the Esther Maynor Honors College and director of the Pembroke Undergraduate Research Center (PURC), said the forum would be an annual event.

“This is an event we hope will grow over the years and become a campus wide celebration of student creativity and research,” Dr. Peters said.

Chancellor Allen C. Meadors called the forum an important annual event at UNCP.

“I cannot overestimate the importance of undergraduate research,” Chancellor Meadors said. “There is nothing more intellectually stimulating.”

Kristen Arnett’s research project on detecting heavy metals in water was one of 47 posters on display. The project is headed to Washington, D.C., April 25 as one of 80 exhibits from across the U.S. in the annual “Posters on the Hill” program, sponsored by the national Council on Undergraduate Research.
           
Like many undergraduate research projects, Arnett’s was federally-funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The research was directed by Dr. Paul Flowers, a UNCP chemistry professor.

“I’m awfully proud of Ms. Arnett and UNCP,” Dr. Flowers said. “Kristen is
very excited, and has begun the process of preparing for this very important event.”

Sarah Brown explains her research project on a North Carolina endangered plant to fellow student Megan Grimsley.

Sarah Brown explains her research project on a North Carolina endangered plant to fellow student Megan Grimsley.

Arnett said the poster would be redrafted for display to the nation’s lawmakers. She has secured an audience with N.C. Sen. Elizabeth Dole and Rep. Mike McIntyre, who represents Pembroke, N.C.

“I was very surprised and very nervous when I heard that my project was accepted,” Arnett said. “We are scheduling as many meetings as possible with senators and congressmen.”

Arnett, who started her college career as a music major, said undergraduate research has been a “great experience.”

“I want to get a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry, and this research project was one of the best things I’ve ever done,” she said. “Today, I learned at this forum about graduate school.”

The project, titled “Toward Development of a Fiber Optic Spectroelectrochemical Florence Sensor for In-situ Metal Ion Determinations,” began almost two years ago. The goal is to build a portable testing system for detecting metals in water.

“The chemistry behind the work is there, and we are trying to develop the equipment that is both portable and inexpensive,” Arnett said. “If you wanted to test the Lumber River for copper, you could carry it with you. Nobody has done this before.”

Projects at the forum ranged from science to social science to the humanities:

  • “The Secret War in Laos” by Naly Yang with English professor Dr. Monica Brown,
  • “Does Political Orientation Predict Modern Racist Attitudes and Beliefs?” by Cedric Turner with education professor Dr. David Oxendine,
  • “Tobacco and Warfare’ by Terry Carter with history professor Dr. Charles Beem and
  • “Preliminary Population Study of Chrysoma Pauciflosculosa: A North Carolina Endangered Plant” by Sarah Brown with biology professor Dr. Lisa Kelly.

Sarah Brown’s research took her to the Lumber River State Park and into the lab.

“We did a population census at the park and brought back seeds for germination,” Brown said. “We learned that recruitment of new seedlings is not an issue, so we theorize that it is competition.”

For more information about undergraduate research at UNCP, please contact the PURC at 910.521.6195 or email purc@uncp.edu.

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