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Undergraduate Research Day at Rutgers-Newark

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It’s not often that undergraduate students have an opportunity to showcase their research in a public forum. On April 18, nearly 70 students from all of Rutgers-Newark’s schools with undergraduate programs shared with their peers and other scholars the results of their research at the campus’s second annual Undergraduate Research Day. Students filled the Multipurpose Room on the second floor of the Paul Robeson Campus Center with six-foot-long tables adorned with tri-fold poster displays that creatively highlighted each researcher’s work. Each participant was available onsite to explain and answer any questions about his or her project.

“Rutgers University is a major research institution where scholarly work is not limited to professors and graduate students,” notes Dr. Alexander Gates, vice chancellor for research at Rutgers-Newark. “Every semester many of our undergraduate students engage in significant research in disciplines ranging from biology, business, criminology, nursing, public policy, and psychology. It is fitting that we would provide a venue for undergraduate students to display their efforts.”

Undergraduate Research Day is the brainchild of Dr. Kinna Perry, director of the Honors College of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. “While all Honors College students are required to present their theses, Undergraduate Research Day broadens the field to include undergraduate students campus-wide involved in meaningful research who have an assigned faculty advisor and a desire to share their research. Undergraduate Research Day gives prospective doctoral students a glimpse at what a professional conference looks like,” comments Perry. “With more than 200 individuals attending the event, it also helps students to develop better organizational, presentation and interpersonal skills and ultimately boosts their self-confidence.”

Aayah Elhosary, a senior majoring in accounting and management at Rutgers Business School, was one of the presenters, and Dr. Kimberly Holton of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences served as her advisor. For two semesters Elhosary studied the 2010 World Cup’s economic and social impact on the residents of South Africa, the hosting country. From her research she concluded that although South Africa achieved its short-term goal of rebranding itself as a welcoming country for tourists and experienced a one percent growth in its economy, South Africa missed a great opportunity to unify the country through investments in new and existing infrastructure that directly inured to the benefit of the country’s citizens (e.g., affordable housing versus additional athletic stadiums). Elhosary, who plans to study for the certified public accountant exam and secure a job with a major pharmaceutical or accounting firm upon graduation, was pleased to have the opportunity to make more people aware of her research topic.

Another participant, Ann John, had been conducting research on traumatic brain injury (TBI) in rats to determine what causes certain neurons to die and others to survive. John’s research sought to ascertain which part of the brain is salvageable after high impact. Since research in rats can be generalized to humans, the results of John’s research have significant implications for children and the elderly, the largest population to suffer TBI, mainly resulting from car accidents and falls. John, a junior, is a biology major and conducts her research in Dr. Wilma Friedman’s lab. After graduation she plans to attend medical school to study neurology or nephrology. Participation in Undergraduate Research Day gave her early exposure to the research aspect of the medical professional.

For Amber Martin, Undergraduate Research Day provided an open forum for her to express her interest in the explosive new hydraulic fracturing industry. Martin is a senior with a double major in political science and economics, and under the guidance of Dr. Frank Fischer of the Department of Political Science, she used data from her research to help shape policy on cleaner, safer, and more cost-effective ways to release natural gas via hydraulic fracturing. The results of her research would be most interesting to environmentalists and policymakers. This fall, Martin will be attending the University of Connecticut Law School in Hartford and intends to earn a certificate in environmental law along with a joint juris doctor and master of public policy.

“I love Undergraduate Research Day,” exclaims Gates. “It’s great to see so many students who are deeply passionate about their research topics.”