Undergraduate research conference is Dec. 4 at SMSU

The 14th annual Undergraduate Research Conference will be from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4, at Southwest Minnesota State University.

Research projects from SMSU students representing 18 academic areas will be featured, according to Dr. Emily Deaver, Professor of Environmental Science and the event coordinator.

Approximately 133 students will be participating. There are 75 poster presentations, and 29 oral presentations. A total of 30 faculty advisers have also been involved in the process, “one of the highest numbers we’ve had,” said Deaver.

One new academic area participating this year is Music. “Six students are participating, and they will do poster presentations in the morning on their research on some aspect of music or a particular piece of music, and in the afternoon, the students will give a performance related to that research,” said Deaver. They will perform from 1:30-2:20 p.m. in the Fine Arts Theatre.

The keynote speaker will be Dr. Peter Grahn, a 2011 alumnus and an Assistant Professor in Neurosurgery and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Grahn and his team have garnered international attention for their groundbreaking research surrounding electrical stimulation of the spinal cord which, when combined with therapy, helped a Wisconsin man regain some use of his legs, which were paralyzed in a 2013 snowmobile accident.

The conference will take place at several locations across campus. Oral presentations will take place in the Conference Center Upper Ballroom and Charter Hall 201, while poster presentations will be held in the Conference Center Lower Ballroom and the upper level of the Student Center.

Poster and oral presentations begin at 9:45 a.m. Oral presentations consist of PowerPoints about the students’ research topic, followed by a short Q&A session.

Poster presentations are created using a template and are printed in the GIS Center at SMSU. The posters are the same quality as those used at professional conferences.

The conference features research topics from 18 different academic areas, including: Accounting, Agriculture, Biology, Chemistry, Culinology, Computer Science, English, Environmental Science, Exercise Science, History, Mathematics, Music, Nursing, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology, Theater, and Sociology.

The Undergraduate Research Conference originated when Deaver and Environmental Science Professor Dr. Thomas Dilley undertook an Environmental Science program review. “We realized the students needed more experience doing original research and then presenting their findings,” said Deaver. She took the ball and ran with it, and is proud of its growth, and the fact other academic areas have continued to join this yearly event.

“There is national recognition now about the importance of undergraduate research,” said Deaver. “More and more we are hearing from faculty members what a difference it makes in their students’ development.”

Students will explain their project to the public, and others within the university community, during the day. The conference normally attracts about 500 viewers, including students, faculty, family, friends, university faculty and staff, as well as staff from regional scientific agencies.

Those wanting to find a particular student presentation can check at the table on the upper level of the Conference Center for a program listing the full schedule for the day. The schedule and list of research projects is available online at: https://www.smsu.edu/urc/pastconferences/14th-annual-undergraduate-research-conference.html.

The conference is free and open to the public.