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68 UWRF students to travel to Montana for conference

April 8, 2010

Sixty-eight UW-River Falls students, the largest group to date, are heading to Missoula, Mont., for the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR).

Approximately 2,000-2,500 students participate in this conference from across the nation, according to Bill Campbell, the director of grants and research. The three-day conference, April 15-17, is packed with oral and poster presentations delivered by students.

This conference is where students can showcase their work to a broader audience, according to Campbell.

They can also use this as a citation in their resumes when applying to graduate schools.

This conference is a major opportunity for students to benchmark themselves to other students throughout the nation, according to Tim Lyden, the faculty advisor for the Society for Undergraduate Research, Scholarly and Creative Activities (SURSCA).

“This conference has the students take big risks; they are truly putting themselves out there. It is a pretty heady experience for them. The students come back with a better understanding, they see value in their education,” said Lyden. “They get on the plane as undergraduate students and come off the plane professionals.”

NCUR is open to students who submit abstracts from all areas of education.

This includes the sciences, social sciences, history, art, criminology, economics, English, etc… Michelle Haring, a McNair scholar and NCUR participant is presenting her topic entitled “Invasion of Lyme Disease vector Ixodes scapularis and Pathogen Borrelia burgdorferi in Southwestern Michigan.”

In other words, Haring will be discussing her experiences this past summer examining the spread of Lyme disease throughout Southwestern Michigan.

Haring said she is excited about the conference.

“I am looking forward to seeing what other students are presenting and learning new things from them.”

Other 2010 NCUR abstracts include “The Microbiology of Raw Milk: Organic v. Conventional” by Kimberly Altenhofen, “Quaternary Glacial Mapping using Soil Survey Information” by Betsy Oehlke, “Under the Waves:

Water Imagery in Virginia Woolf” by Stefanie Otteson and “The Influence of Diabetes Mellitus on Interpersonal and Romantic Relationships” by Rachel Peterson.

These are only four of the 53 abstracts listed on the SURSCA blog Web site.

UWRF has been participating in the NCUR conference since 2002 when it was held in Whitewater, Wis.

The students who attended the conference that year came back and decided to create SURSCA to encourage future students to attend NCUR and to promote undergraduate research at UWRF, according to Lyden.

From 2002 to 2006, SURSCA had trouble providing funding to send students to NCUR. So in 2006, officers of SURSCA petitioned the student senate for funding from differential tuition.

The senate voted in favor and so earmarked $75,000 for a competitive grant program, Falcon Grants, to be established. SURSCA has sent 300 students to the NCUR conference since 2002, according to Lyden.

SURSCA distributes the grant money to students for research, travel and conference expenses, according to Ashley Graef, the treasurer for SURSCA.

Each student has to have their abstract reviewed and approved to be able to attend the NCUR conference, according to Lyden. The SURSCA student committee reviews the applications in a non-identifiable way so that there are no conflicts of interest.

“I am very impressed with the student committee. They are very professional. They are sometimes harder critics on the applications than I would be,” said Lyden. 

Graef is presenting a poster explaining SURSCA at the NCUR conference. Currently only UW-Stout and UW-LaCrosse have similar programs to SURSCA.

“I want my presentation to help promote SURSCA to other campuses around the nation,” said Graef. “I want to show what SURSCA has done for promoting undergraduate research at UWRF.”

The students attending the NCUR conference can partake in many activities. Students present their topics then are free to see other students’ presentations, listen to the plenary speakers, the professional speakers, and can go on field trips.

Some of these field trips include visiting the National Bison Range Wildlife Refuge, the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge and the Smokejumper Center and Firelab.

Students at the NCUR conference will also be blogging about their experiences, according to Lyden. This blog is available at http://sursca-uwrf.blogspot.com.

Other participating schools include Whitewater, UW-Eau Claire, UW-Stout, UW-LaCrosse, UW-Platteville, the University of Minnesota, Hamline University, St. Scholastica and St. John’s/St. Ben’s. 

The NCUR conference should be educational for the students, according to Lyden.

“UWRF always comes off very well at this conference,” said Lyden. “People have come to recognize that UWRF is a major player in undergraduate research and is among the best in the nation.”