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Students show off research skills

Friday, August 3, 2007 | 12:46 a.m. CDT; updated 6:29 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008
Participants and observers enter the Life Sciences Center to view the work of students who have been participating in undergraduate research this summer.

COLUMBIA-Anne Binder was one of several undergraduate researchers who stood next to a poster on the fifth floor of the Christopher S. Bond Life Sciences Center on Thursday afternoon.

But while Binder may seem like any other undergraduate researcher, her work is unique. In a room filled with studies titled “Cell on the move: Remodeling of the vascular wall” and “Amphibian use of stream habitats in an agricultural landscape,” a study called “Multimedia metaphors: The film and literature hybrid of videopoetry,” seems out of place.

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While her work doesn’t fit into the usual concept of research, the English major doesn’t think that it makes it less valuable.

“I think that it’s important as far as spreading arts and culture, because so many times I’ve found you don’t hear about contemporary poetry anymore,” Binder said. “If you ask somebody about contemporary poetry, they say Allen Ginsberg, at best.”

MU held its Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievements Forum at the Life Sciences Center on Thursday afternoon. A major component of the forum was a poster show, in which students who have been conducting undergraduate research were able to present and discuss their findings. They also held a recognition ceremony and a picnic in front of the building. More than 110 students participated, representing a variety of majors, including English, psychology and biology.

Larry Fagbami, a biology major, presented research on the effects of certain genes on mice. He said he enjoyed the work because it gave him a chance to take what he has learned in the classroom into the lab.

“I think that it’s very attractive to graduate schools to see students with experience,” Fagbami said. “I’ve had a couple of years experience in research, and I feel very comfortable using these techniques.”

Experience is one of many benefits students gain from participating in undergraduate research. Linda Blockus, director of the Office for Undergraduate Research, says undergraduate research not only educates the student in their field, but also provides them with the chance to present their work to a public audience.

“One of the things we try and encourage the students to do is to present so that lay folk can understand it,” Blockus said. “We want to give them the experience of presenting their research.”

Undergraduate research also provides for faculty members and the university. Undergraduate researchers often help faculty researchers.

“The more productive the faculty are, the more likely they are going to continue to get federal grants to fund the research,” Blockus said.

Undergraduate research is published in peer-reviewed journals, with the students listed as co-authors. And the students usually go on to more advanced topics of study.

“I liked working on something I knew I could enjoy for the rest of my life,” said Gregory Yeckel, a biology major. “Doing this really made me feel good knowing that I really enjoy it and that I’m preparing for my future.”


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