Economist Russ Roberts urged the more than 80 students who participated in the ACU Undergraduate Research Festival to strive for excellence in their academic pursuits.
Roberts, professor of economics at George Mason University and author of the book The Price of Everything: A Parable of Possibility and Prosperity, discussed economist Adam Smith’s idea that people desire to be loved and be lovely. He urged participants to evaluate themselves to ensure they see themselves as others see them.
“We need to pull away the veil of self-dilution and see ourselves as others see us,” Roberts said. “We have flaws we don’t want others to notice.”
Roberts said the field of academic research lends itself to the veiling of weaknesses. He urged students to recognize and consider their own biases when conducting research.
“We lie to ourselves about our strengths and weaknesses,” Roberts said. “In research and academic life we have the same problem. That is the nature of the kitchen that is academic research. Some of it is great and changes the world. Other is not so great.”
Roberts implored young researchers to prove biases false, seek council and look in the mirror. He told students to avoid situations that would ultimately encourage them to be dishonest.
“See yourself as a work in progress. Try to be a better person, thinker and scholar,” Roberts said.
Robert’s remarks were followed by a ceremony to recognize 14 award-winning presentations. Students worked with mentors to submit a paper or poster presentation. Many also gave oral presentations.
Dr. Lauren Lemley, assistant professor of communication and member of the steering committee for judging and contest at the Festival, said the event gave students an opportunity to display talents they have learned in their classes.
“It gives them opportunities to take what they learn in the classroom and extend it,” Lemley said.
Dr. Autumn Sutherlin, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry and member of the steering committee for judging and contest, said this year’s contest featured extensive variety and was well attended by faculty and staff. She said many faculty members judged the contest, including Dr. Phil Schubert, president, and Dr. Jeanine Varner, provost.
“There was a lot of variety and better attendance, so the rooms were often standing room only,” Sutherlin said. “We also had better participation from faculty mentors from a wide variety of departments.”
David Kempe, junior chemistry major from Tulsa, Okla., was among the students participating in the Festival. His team worked with heavy metal compounds, proven to kill cancer cells in cultures. His team used microwaves to synthesize the compounds.