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Friday, May 2, 2008

UNCP shows off undergraduate research

The 2nd annual Pembroke Undergraduate Research and Creativity (PURC) Day was held April 23 at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

Coty Gearner

Coty Gearner

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The day-long exhibition aims to show the University community the research of its undergraduate students. Information about graduate study is also part of the day-long program.

After touring the displays, Chancellor Allen C. Meadors was struck by one aspect of PURC Day.

“The great diversity of research presented here truly reflects the diversity of our University,” said Chancellor Meadors. “This is a great showing.”

Fifty-four posters representing research, ranging from science to literature, were on display. The number of posters increased from 36 last year.

As a non-traditional student who returned to UNCP as a research assistant after graduating, Coty Gearner of Hope Mills, N.C., surprised herself by becoming engaged in scientific research.

“I have been accepted by the faculty and my fellow students, and I really enjoyed my research project,” Gearner said.

 “My research takes waste products, which is mainly glycerol, from the manufacture of biodiesel and analyzes it for use as plant fertilizer,” she said. “It appears to have the same properties as a common plant food.”

Margeret Damghani

Margeret Damghani

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Gearner will continue her research testing her product on plants.

Margeret Damghani, a journalism major, and Jacquelyn Kerr, an English major, took a different route.

“I got a grant to attend a national conference on mothering,” said Damghani, who is expecting her second child. “Mothering Magazine accepted an article I wrote for publication.

“After my first child, I became very passionate about this subject,” she said. “I hope to do some freelance work after the birth of my second child.”

Kerr, who hopes to attend graduate school, wrote a research paper on Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem “The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim’s Point.”

“It is a ballad in narrative form,” Kerr said. “The murder of a child is a hotly contested point among scholars, and I took a slightly different view.”

As students explained their projects to visitors, faculty paced like expectant parents. For every research poster there was one or more faculty members like Dr. Siva Mandjiny, a chemistry professor who advised three of the research projects.

Jacquelyn Kerr

Jacquelyn Kerr

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“I am very pleased with the results,” Dr. Mandjiny said. “We used sweet potatoes to make alcohol for fuel and Beta Carotene, which is used to produce vitamin A.”

The biofuels research team joined with two local companies, George Foods of Pembroke, which uses sweet potatoes, and SOLV-IT Technologies of Marietta, Ga., which is building an ethanol plant in St. Pauls, N.C.

Event coordinator Dr. Lee Phillips is assistant director of PURC and Dr. Jesse Peters is director.

“Participation in undergraduate research continues to grow at UNCP,” Dr. Peters said. “This was the third consecutive year that our students were selected to present at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research.”

Speakers included Dr. Patrick Pellicane, dean of the East Carolina University Graduate School, Dr. Richard Harris, a psychology professor at Kansas State University, and Dr. Charles Boklage, a professor of pediatrics at East Carolina University.

Faculty advisors included: Dr. Jeremy Sellers (Biology), Dr. Marilu Santos (Biology), Dr. Maria Pereria (Biology), Dr. Deborah Hanmer (Biology), Dr. Meredith Storms (Chemistry), Dr. William Brandon (Chemistry), Dr. Mark McClure (Chemistry), Dr. Siva Mandjiny (Chemistry), Dr. Jose D’Arruda (Physics), Dr. Len Holmes (Chemistry), Dr. Tom Dooling (Physics), Dr. Cornelia Tirla (Chemistry), Dr. Harold Teague (Chemistry), Dr. Paul Flowers (Chemistry), Dr. Tim Ritter (Chemistry), Dr. Ramin Maysami (Business), Dr. Melissa Schaub (English), Dr. Ryan Anderson (History), Dr. Charles Beem (History), Dr. Kim Gunter ( English), Dr. Jesse Peters (English), Dr. Anthony Curtis (Mass Communications), Dr. Jennifer Bonds-Raacke (Psychology), Dr. John Raacke (Psychology), Dr. William Collier (Psychology), Darcy Hayes (Academic Excellence) and Dr. Brooke Kelly (Sociology).

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