The Undergraduate Research Council celebrated the work of the more than 130 ACU students who performed undergraduate research during the last year at its first Fall Dinner on Nov. 3.
Dr. Greg Powell, director of undergraduate research and professor of chemistry, said the purpose of the event was to recognize the students who have investigated various research topics as well as the faculty who mentored them. About 75 students and professors attended the dinner at the Hunter Welcome Center to learn about each other’s work and congratulate the students chosen as Researchers of the Year.
The student researchers were divided into a science, technology, engineering and mathematics category and an arts, humanities and social sciences category.Â Faculty mentors were asked to nominate students for Researcher of the Year, and seven finalists out of these nominations.
Powell announced the winners in the two categories at the dinner and awarded them a certificate and $100. Alexandra Moran, senior social work major from Austin, earned the award with her work on the impact of mobile technology in the undergraduate social work classroom. Her research has been accepted for presentation at four national conferences.
Evan Jones, junior pre-med biochemistry major from Canyon, was the other student recognized as Researcher of the Year. He has participated in three research projects over the last year, one of which he completed at UT Southwestern Medical Center this summer. There he analyzed which genes were activated as neurons developed as a part of research investigating treatment options for neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
It was this project that most taught Jones the true meaning of research, he said.
“It’s ‘re-search,'” Jones said. “You search, and then search again.”
Jones spent the first nine of the 10 weeks of his research project working out the kinks in his methods. He was due to present his research on the last Tuesday of the project, and the Sunday before he still had no data.
Jones entered the lab at 4 a.m. the day before his presentation and ran all of the tests by 11 p.m. He went home only to spend the night whipping together a power point presentation of his findings, he said.
“It was one of the most frustrating yet fulfilling and exciting things I’ve ever done,” Jones said. “It’s one of the things that help me decide that I want to pursue research as a career.”
The other two research projects Jones conducted were under ACU mentors. He is working with Dr. Qiang Xu, assistant professor of biology, in researching how house flies develop resistance against insecticides.
Jones has also completed research on overlap of science and theology with his partner Blaine Smith, junior biology major from Keller, under the mentorship of Dr. Daniel Brannan, professor of biology. Their paper, “Epigenetics and Pastoral Counseling: The Science Behind What We Preach,” will be published in the March, 2012 edition of the European Journal of Science and Theology.
Jones said the dinner was not only a chance to share his research, but at time to learn about the studies of students from other departments as well. Powell organized the seating so each table had a diverse representation of majors and studies.
“It was great to see other students interested in research while looking at a whole another side of it,” Jones said.
Powell said he got a lot of positive feedback about the opportunity the dinner afforded students and faculty to learn about the research that is taking place all across the campus. Many attendees said they thought the dinner was worth repeating.
“I didn’t know exactly what to expect from the dinner, but was very pleased with the results,” Powell said. “We plan to make this an annual event.”
Powell also used the dinner as an opportunity to promote and receive feedback for the spring’s Undergraduate Research Festival. Students and faculty suggested opening up the festival to the other universities in Abilene, and the Undergraduate Research Council is taking the suggestion into consideration, Powell said.
The deadline for submitting abstracts for the Undergraduate Research Festival is Feb. 3, Powell said. For more information, contact email@example.com.