By ELISHA HOSTETLER
Congratulations to all the chosen Undergraduate Research Conference (URC) presenters! These students decided to bravely submit their near-and-dear research in the hopes of expanding the present market place of ideas. But what happened for the rest of the IU South Bend student population that did not take part in or was denied access to the event?
Student Jess Miller explained that he “wasn’t even aware that a conference of such a sort existed” and also admits to “not knowing the first thing about figuring out how to even go about picking a topic, turning it into a research paper and finding someone to help guide him through the whole process.”
Another student, Kristy McCombs, believed that her research was not chosen by the URC faculty because she did not take the “time to use all the resources the sponsor advised and ended up wasting an opportunity.”
In either case, there is always next year to apply, because this year’s conference created a positive buzz on campus. For those that are graduating this year and think that such an opportunity is now out of reach, do not despair.
According to Gail McGuire, a professor of the sociology and anthropology, any former graduate student of IUSB can enter their research into this competition, “as long as said research was begun in the class setting” or done while you were an actual student.
If you decide that you want to submit past or future research to the URC committee for the possibility of a cash prize, to gain presenting experience and a nice acclaimed extra-curricular activity for your resume, you’ll need to begin by choosing a research topic. Do not be afraid, for this is the easiest part!
For this, all you will need is an open mind and a past idea, paper or research project/presentation that you found to be intellectually stimulating. Keep in mind, you should consider choosing a topic that you will not become easily bored with, since you’ll be spending a lot of time and energy working on that specific material.
The next step is to find a sponsor and then fill out the registration form located online at https://www.iusb.edu/undergrad-research/registration.php. Finding a sponsor sounds complicated; however, Bethany Dobson described the whole process as being “rather easy.”
In her case, Dobson decided to take a class project and continue working on it until she had enough to actually present at the URC. Luckily for her, Professor Catherine Borshuk from the psychology department was the class instructor for the class project and also happened to be a sponsor.
Dobson advises all students to check in with the course instructor of a class that you may have done some type of interesting research for and see if they decided to incorporate the URC into their class.
This is important because it takes the work out of hunting down a sponsor, but also allows for said sponsor to be “familiar with what it is you’re interested in and better able to help you through the researching process,” according to Borshuk. If, however, your research or creative project was done in or outside of the classroom, you can pick a sponsor outside of that particular discipline.
“Any faculty member can become a sponsor,” said Assistant Professor of English Anne Magnan-Park, an official organizer and sponsor of this year’s URC. “They are trained to present their research and creative works at national and international conferences in their fields.”
The role of a good sponsor is to mentor a student in any way the student needs.
“My sponsor helped decide what sort of content would be most appropriate to mention during the presentation, as well as to help narrow down certain subtopics that would best exemplify my research question,” Dobson said.
The benefits of presenting research projects are numerous. Magnan-Park believes undergrad research helps the student figure out what impassions them intellectually and how to express that passion within a supportive environment.
Other benefits include gaining confidence while speaking in public arenas, practice at applying the material learned in class into something society deems as useful, and helping the student realize the power of their intellect and the career path that their education provides.
So why is undergrad research so valuable? Dobson believes students are able to take important issues that may not be very popular within the public sphere and instead “encourage people to become aware and make them want to do something about it.”
“Publishing and presenting your research is also a great way to make yourself more competitive for the job market or even if you are thinking about applying to grad school,” said Professor Christina Gerken of the Women Studies Department.
So for next year, if you want to take part and make your research about a specific topic known and also have something to put on your resume, then the Undergraduate Research Conference is the way to go.