Summer Research Celebration highlights RU undergraduate research efforts

Featuring ecophysiology, data science, forensic archeology and chemistry among other disciplines, the third annual Summer Research Celebration capped a focused summer for several Radford University undergraduates.

Celebrating the work of the 2014-15 Student Undergraduate Research Fellows (SURF), the event drew more than 300 faculty and students to the Hurlburt Student Center Auditorium Sept. 16. From the podium, before posters or as part of panel discussions, the researchers recounted their pursuits of unique academic projects sponsored by the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship (OURS).

There were 18 symposium presentations and five poster presentations. A special session was devoted to the Radford Amazonian Research Expedition and included the screening of a video about the team’s 2015 Maymester experiences in the Peruvian rain forest.


RARE panelists reflect on summer in the Peruvian rain forest Members of the 2015 RARE team (from left: Steve Gallas, Emily Guise, Skyler Carrell, Sarah Hebert, Diego Kendall, Cassie Bonavita, Hanna Mitchell, Jessi Basham and Michelle Maurer) share anecdotes from their Maymester research experiences in the Peruvian Amazon during the Sept. 16 Summer Research Celebration in the Bonnie Auditorium.

Fresh from her first professional presentation, titled "Characterization and binding of amino acid mutants F365Y and F365W of E. coli β-glucuronidase," Lindsay Lesure, a senior chemistry major from Barre, Vermont, said the summer experience was rewarding on many levels.

"I really got into it. Something abstract is now real to me," Lesure said. "I learned about laboratory technique and problem-solving. The best part was working with people I didn’t know in the lab all day to discover something. Even the process of applying for the SURF grant was valuable. I want to do more."

While Lesure was lab-bound for the summer, Caroline Leggett’s presentation "Selu Soundscape," recapped her summer in the field at the Selu Conservancy with a sophisticated sound recording array. Her research objective was to record “the chorus of nature” as a historical and bioacoustical reflection of the changing climate and environment.

Leggett, a senior interdisciplinary studies major, then went into the lab to parse out the sounds at various frequencies and identify them. Her hope is to publish the sound inventory at the Selu Conservancy website.

“We need to pay attention to our senses, to enjoy them,” said Leggett, during her presentation. She pointed out research indicating that there are very few places remaining where one can experience an environment free of human noise.

For Joel Schmidt, a senior majoring in business and math/statistics, the research experience took him deep into data science. His presentation, titled “Forecasting the progress of global development,” detailed his ongoing efforts as a competitor in an international data science competition.

“Since this is such a new and evolving discipline, I really had to educate myself about forecasting models. I really have gone from knowing nothing about it to standing before you today,” Schmidt said in his presentation. He credited his COBE mentor, Assistant Professor of Management Michael King, and the SURF grant for supporting his unique “chase after a career and professional accomplishment.”

The SURF program fosters a community of undergraduate research and engaged scholarship during the summer months at Radford University. For more on the SURF program, visit the OURS website or contact OURS at or 540-831-7203.

Sep 23, 2015