Posters filled the Blue Zone at Kenan Stadium as the University community came together on Wednesday to participate in the 20th annual Celebration of Undergraduate Research.
The research symposium, designed to celebrate and encourage undergraduate research at UNC across all disciplines, featured nearly 270 undergrads showcasing their research from over 30 disciplines.
The ability to conduct academic research is available for all students at UNC, and students also have the option to pursue research opportunities that lie outside their declared major. One attendee, Associate Dean and Director from the Office for Undergraduate Research Troy Blackburn, said he believes in the benefits of research regardless of the field.
“It forces the student to engage in problem solving skills that they don’t have to otherwise,” Blackburn said. “And I think that makes a real connection between traditional education that is supplemented with research.”
With exam season beginning next week, interdisciplinary studies major Mallory Happ presented her research on stress and the biological markers of stress in college students. While the research process can be grueling, Happ said she is grateful to UNC for helping her along the way.
“Especially at UNC, it's really easy to get involved in research and it's so set up for you to be successful,” Happ said.
For the students presenting, Wednesday’s symposium provided an opportunity to finally showcase months of hard work. Straying from the stereotype of health or social science research, senior Grace Ketron conducted her study on how the media covered police shootings during and after Ferguson. Ketron said that the time needed for this project kept her working day and night, but the impact her work can have made every minute worth it.
“There is definitely more hours put into this than I thought there would be, so I guess I was just naive,” Ketron said. “But the research process is rewarding because you find real stuff and you go ‘this is an important issue today,’ so I’m helping people discuss things in a better way.”
Students already at UNC do not have to wait to get involved in academic research. Although the Office for Undergraduate Research recommends taking a semester to adjust to the rigors of college life, incoming first-years have the opportunity of getting involved immediately if they so choose.
Sarrah Ankeny is a first-year who had never thought about making research a part of her future. Ankeny completed a study on the perceptions of the Learning Center among UNC students, and the data gained from her research will be used by the Learning Center to improve its services. While Ankeny had no previous research experience prior to coming to UNC, she said this project has opened up a new world for her.
“This is kind of encouraging me to like consider research and continue pursuing research, because I really enjoyed this,” Ankeny said.
Reaching the finish line after a long research process can be rewarding, but success doesn’t happen overnight. Happ believes that students interested in pursuing research should focus on the long-term goal rather than short term success.
“Be prepared to fail, because it happens literally every day,” Happ said.
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