Undergraduate researchers, scholars present at NCUR 2007

More than 2,000 abstracts written by undergraduate students from 300 colleges and universities throughout the United States were accepted for presentation at the 21st annual National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR), which was held at Dominican University of California from April 12 through April 14, 2007.

A record 2,031 students were accepted to present their original research at NCUR 2007. Biology, politics, English, and psychology were the most popular subjects. During the three-day event, students presented their original research on topics ranging from homeland defense and decision science to pharmacoeconomics and the involvement of mathematics in ancient Greece.

Abstracts were presented by students attending colleges and universities nationwide, ranging from large research institutions such as Columbia University, Duke University, Rutgers University, Stanford University, UC Berkeley, and Yale University, to smaller liberal arts colleges such as Dickinson College, Reed College, Smith College, and Vassar College.

Over the past 20 years there has been a tremendous growth in undergraduate research at all types of institutions. At Dominican, for example, many departments integrate undergraduate research into the curriculum from the freshman year onward. Students in the science department are involved with stem cell research, as well as research into breast cancer, sudden oak death, the genetics of obesity and the threat to biodiversity created by the spread of non-native plant and animal species on public land.

The annual NCUR conference was created in 1986 to promote undergraduate research, scholarship, and creative activity in all fields of study. NCUR attracts student presenters from all corners of the academic curriculum. Attendance grew from 260 presenters in 1986 to 1,900 presenters in 2006.

The central premise of undergraduate research is the formation of collaboration between students and faculty, noted Dr. Sibdas Ghosh, chair of Dominican’s Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and a member of the NCUR board of governors.

“Undergraduate research combines teaching and research and, as a result, replaces the traditional archetypes of teacher and student with a collaborative, investigative model, which uses research done with a faculty mentor,” said Dr. Ghosh. Before joining Dominican’s faculty in 2001, Ghosh was director of undergraduate research at the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater.

“Undergraduate research truly motivates students to learn by doing,” he adds. “With faculty mentors, students engage directly in practicing the work of their discipline, while they avoid passively acquiring knowledge that this discipline has produced.”

In the previous two years, Dominican’s science students earned a 100 percent acceptance rate into both medical and graduate school, including the Keck School of Medicine of USC, the University of Washington School of Medicine, the UC San Diego School of Medicine, and the joint MS/MD program at UC San Francisco/UC Berkeley. in 2007, five students were accepted directly into Ph.D. programs at UCLA, USC, Loyola University Chicago, the University of Michigan, and the University of Wisconsin at Madison. All of those students were exposed to undergraduate research while at Dominican, and all of these students presented their work at past meetings of NCUR.

NCUR 2007 was held on Dominican’s San Rafael campus, located about 12 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Keynote speakers included Dr. Dale Bredesen, president and CEO of the Buck Institute for Age Research; Dr. Millie Hughes-Fulford, NASA science astronaut and director of The Laboratory of Cell Growth in the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, University of California, San Francisco; and Melba Beals, head of Dominican’s Department of Communications and a member of the Little Rock Nine.

Posted January 24, 2007