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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

UNCP undergraduate research goes on display

Eighty-four research projects were on display April 6 during the 3rd annual Pembroke Undergraduate Research and Creativity (PURC) Symposium at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

Jason York, left and Michael Everhart with their poster on spectroscopy

Jason York, left and Michael Everhart with their poster on spectroscopy

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Not only is undergraduate research and creative work on the rise at UNCP, the symposium displayed a wide variety of student work, Chancellor Allen C. Meadors said.

“This event has really grown in the number and diversity of poster presentations,” Chancellor Meadors said. “The process of doing a research project in collaboration with a faculty mentor is a tremendous learning experience.”

Students explored graveyards in Robeson County and comets in space, international banking and the idea of love. Research projects spanned virtually every academic area including the sciences, history, business, literature, art, psychology, communications, Indian studies and criminal justice.

Michael Everhart and Jason York presented a poster on “Spectroscopy and Photometry of Comet C/2007 and N3 Lulin.”

“If you want to know what something is made of, spectroscopy splits light into its component elements,” said Everhart, a physics major. “We found carbon, oxygen and nitrogen; basically comets are just dirty snowballs.”

York, who is a business major, said the pair solved many problems from weather to ambient light.

“A lot of late nights went into this,” York said. “These comets will never be seen again, so this was a one-time shot.”

Business major Karen Bailey’s husband was in Iraq, but he helped with her research on that nation’s banking system.

“My husband just returned from a 15-month deployment,” Bailey said. “He linked me with some top U.S. experts.”

Patricia Brayboy and her digital art

Patricia Brayboy and her digital art

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Iraq’s banking system thrived until former dictator Saddam Hussein nationalized it, she said.

“There are many issues today, such as instilling confidence and developing an infrastructure for modern banking,” Bailey said. “Banking in Iraq is in transition, and it was ironic that the international banking system suddenly went into transition while I was doing this.”

“Walking in Two Worlds” is the title of Patricia Brayboy’s digital art work.

“This demonstrates my dual life as a U.S. citizen and a Native person,” Brayboy said. “Because this is a digital rendition of a traditional subject, it demonstrates another duality as well.”

Business major Joseph Cecil worked across borders too with a research project on crystalline pottery glazes.

“It’s a different technique with a high failure rate of 50-75 percent,” Cecil said. “I want to go into the pottery business with my own shop.”

For the first time, the PURC Symposium featured oral as well as poster presentations. Michael Everhart jumped into this arena as well.

He, Brad Eidschun and Scott Munizza built a “super” computer in Everhart’s apartment for $291.28. The trio linked six Intel processors to build “David I,” a small but mighty computer.

“This was a really good learning experience,” Everhart said. “But you probably want to know how fast is David I?”

“We downloaded some free (processing speed measurement) software and found it is four-and-a-half times faster than my one-year-old laptop,” he said. “That’s pretty amazing!”

Like their peers, this group received financial assistance from the University and advice from faculty mentors. Dr. Steve Bourquin in the Mathematics and Computer Science Department and Dr. Jose D’Arruda in the Chemistry and Physics Department mentored the project.

Business major Joseph Cecil with his research on pottery glazes

Business major Joseph Cecil with his research on pottery glazes

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Almost no topic was sacred as Mass Communications major Hannah Darden demonstrated in her two-year research project on “love.”

“I have an idealistic view of love, and I wanted to see if other students felt the same way,” Darden said. “I asked the question: ‘Does exposure to romantic media affect your idea of love?’”

The findings of the research project appeared in equations and numbers, and Darden reported that she is getting married in June. So the bottom line was – happily ever after.

Dr. Jesse Peters, PURC director, said at least 35 students presented their research or creative work at state and national conferences this year.

“Many thanks go to these students and their faculty mentors,” Dr. Peters said. “It is our desire that the PURC Symposium will be a launching pad for student participation in research and formal presentation venues.”

Dr. Lee Phillips, assistant director of PURC, coordinated the day long event, which included discussions of graduate school with representatives from North Carolina State University.

Faculty on the PURC Council include: Dr. Ryan Anderson (History), Dr. Anthony Curtis (Mass Communication), Hal Davis (Music), Tulla Lightfoot (Art), Dr. Robert Poage (Biology), Dr. John Raacke (Psychology) and Dr. Meredith Storms (Chemistry & Physics).

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

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