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Summer Research Celebration highlights RU undergraduate research efforts

The first-ever Summer Research Celebration was an intensively scientific version of "How I spent my summer vacation" that featured ecophysiology, curriculum development, theoretical mathematics, geophysics and archeology among other disciplines.

Celebrating the work of 12 motivated and enthusiastic Radford University undergraduates, or Student Undergraduate Research Fellows, the event drew more than 150 faculty and students to the Hurlburt Student Center Auditorium on Thursday, Oct. 24. On stage and in small groups, the researchers eagerly, and somewhat nervously, recounted their summer pursuit of unique academic projects sponsored by the newly-formed Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship (OURS).

"Doing research gave me an opportunity to incorporate all the ideas, philosophies and knowledge I learned at RU. It was very empowering and special and helped me realize just how much I have learned, "said Jarrod Hobson, a graduate student in special education from Lebanon, Va. Hobson's project "Developing curriculum materials for vocabulary intervention" was part of the event's poster session.

Among the eight symposium presentations was Sarah Montgomery's "Geophysical and archaeological investigations of Civil War sites near Radford."

"Research for me was working together as a team, scientist-to-scientist, to understand what is going on," said Montgomery, a senior geology and physics major from Ararat, whose project brought the technology of geophysical inquiry together with archaeological technique to explore the sites of two local forts that were part of Union General Crook's campaign to cut the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad at the New River Bridge in 1864.

Laken Cooper, Skye Hickling, James Grenier, Sarah Montgomery and Fiona Surrette.

The presenters from the first symposium session at the Summer Research Celebration (from left): Laken Cooper, Skye Hickling, James Grenier, Sarah Montgomery and Fiona Surrette.

Among the other presenters was senior mathematics major James Grenier of Leesburg, whose field work was done in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics' math room and his apartment to prove Bezout's Theorem, a statement in algebraic geometry concerning the number of common points, or intersection points, of two plane algebraic curves. The theorem has been a matter of some dispute since its publication in 1779 by mathematician Étienne Bezout.

Working farther afield were two RU biology majors – Radford's Laken Cooper and Fiona Surette of Boston, Mass., - who focused on researching birds in the hope of solving human problems. Surette studied the bluebird in its local habitats in Bisset Park and the Selu Conservancy to understand how stress affects its parental investment and behaviors with its young, while Cooper presented research done in Kenya as part of a team learning what makes the house sparrow, an invasive species, so adaptable.

"It is inspiring to see RU undergraduates conducting real-world, practical science with the mentorship of our faculty to advance their fields and improve the lives of people in our community," said Interim Assistant Vice Provost Matt Dunleavy. "Another exciting aspect of this great program is that some of these research projects could eventually produce intellectual property, thereby creating entrepreneurial opportunities."

OURS will soon be accepting applications for the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships for the Summer 2014. To learn more, contact the office at OURS@radford.edu.

"Original research and scholarship are important for developing a deep and practical understanding of any discipline," said OURS Director Joseph Wirgau. "Now is the time for an undergraduate to explore the opportunities available here at RU that can transform student to scholar."

Nov 4, 2013