By IZZA JATALA
The Undergraduate Research Conference (URC) at IU South Bend brought together a diverse group of students and professors for a day of sharing knowledge and engaging in intellectual conversations.
By 8:45 a.m. the main hallway on first floor of Wiekamp Hall quickly filled up with students excitedly chatting with one another, snacking on refreshments arranged on the table, or nervously looking through their presentation notes. The panel sessions took place in classrooms 1150 to 1190.
The conference featured research presentations and other creative activities from about 75 students that were organized into 19 panels categorized by the academic field the research topics are based on.
“The most important thing to me is it helps students see themselves for what they are, which is scholars that contribute ideas and knowledge, and participate in discussion,” said Jake Mattox, chair of the URC planning committee and assistant professor of English.
Dressed in professional wear, students and faculty from different academic backgrounds were ready to start the first of three panel sessions.
The panel categories ranged from medieval culture and history to physics to local government and corporate choices.
Each panel consisted of student presenters and a moderator chosen from professors within that field that may also be acting as a faculty advisor to the some of the student presenters.
“I’m really impressed with how many students are presenting and how many people are in the audience,” said Christina Gerken, assistant professor of women’s & gender studies and faculty advisor for the New Views on Gender journal. “There were 15 to 20 people in the audience and lots of great questions and great discussions,”
The research topics presented differed from panel to panel but each research presentation was uniquely delivered by the student.
Presentation topics included “Black Hole Entropy,” “Effects of Media on Vote Choice,” “Progress and Violent Backlash for Egyptian Women,” “Gun Control Laws” and “Effects of Mindfulness on Depression.”
“It’s a lot more relaxed then I thought I was going to be. It’s really more like a friendly exchange of information,” said student presenter Anna Hutchinson.
“It is my first time presenting and it has been a lot of fun actually. I was terrified at first,” said Alycia Gondocs, an English and Spanish Major. “You get used to speaking in front of people, which is really important, and you have to be able to really create a specific argument.”
The audience of student peers didn’t just listen, but asked questions and ignited discussions at the end of each presentation, adding new perspectives to the issue.
The conference featured 15 poster presentations during the hour break between panel sessions, which decorated the halls of Wiekamp.
The poster presentation was a chance for students and professors from different academic backgrounds to learn about academic research from other disciplines.
Michelle Gourley, who teaches Biological Science, was one of the judges for the natural sciences and was charged with evaluating three oral presentations and six posters.
“I was really impressed with the student work and turnout this year,” she said. “Presentations were evaluated on the quality of the research conducted and the clarity and organization of student explanations.”
The lunch hour was another opportunity for participants from different backgrounds to mingle and continue the conversation on the research presented.
“I think we need to recognize the work from students today and the faculty that supported you,” Mattox said to the lunch crowd.
The last round of students presented their research after lunch for the final panel session, wrapping up this year’s URC.
For some students, the URC is a chance to test their knowledge. For others, it may be a chance to gain experience. Whatever the reason, it is a unique opportunity for students and their professors to come together in the pursuit of academic excellence.
“When students present their research, listen to others, participate in discussion, mingle with student scholars from other disciplines and attend other panel sessions, they get the full experience and benefits of what the conference has to offer,” Mattox said.