Posted March 12, 2010 Atlanta, GA
Dr. Karen Harwell
Director, Georgia Tech Undergraduate Research Program
Undergraduate Researchers Reveal Their Insights, Contributions To Campus
Desegregation in Chattanooga, the World Food Programme, and the relationship between hand gestures and traffic patterns are just a few of the more than 120 different research projects that Georgia Tech students will present at the Undergraduate Research Spring Symposium on March 16 from 1 – 4:30 p.m. in the Student Center Ballroom.
Established in 2006, the Undergraduate Research Spring Symposium was the vision of then newly appointed Director for Undergraduate Research Karen Harwell. “When I first arrived at Georgia Tech, I was surprised the campus did not have an Institute-wide forum for presenting this work,” said Harwell. “Many schools had their own presentation opportunities for undergraduate researchers but we wanted an opportunity for the entire campus to hear about their work.”
Improving presentation skills is another important goal of the symposium. “Part of learning the art of research is understanding how to present that work successfully,” said Harwell. “The symposium provides additional opportunities to undergraduates to share their work in an interdisciplinary setting, to receive feedback on their work, and to practice their research presentation skills.” Students who are not involved in undergraduate research may also attend the symposium. “The symposium is an informal way for undergraduates curious about research to hear more about what types of projects are available,” said Harwell.
More than 40 percent of Georgia Tech’s undergraduate student body participates in undergraduate research, expanding their knowledge while helping the Institute. “Students are not only contributing to formally funded research in all six colleges and at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), but also provide a means for faculty to branch into newer, perhaps riskier, areas of research that do not have funding,” said Harwell. “Many faculty who mentor our students will send me an email at the end of the year mentioning the specific work on which an undergraduate was involved that laid the foundation for an NSF proposal or other project.”
The impact of undergraduate research on the Georgia Tech campus is also underscored in the unique approach these students adopt in their methods of inquiry. “Undergraduates many times ask the simpler questions in the lab that can lead a project in a new direction by forcing those on the project to take a step back and re-evaluate their process,” said Harwell.
Faculty mentorship is a vital component of the undergraduate research program and symposium. “Faculty have the opportunity to train and encourage the next generation of graduate students and inventors who end up in positions of leadership within their discipline,” said Harwell. “Faculty attendance at the event is key since their presence provides encouragement and challenge to the students who are presenting.”
Volunteer faculty and graduate student judges will select two winning projects from a pool of 187 students. Students will present their work through oral or poster presentations. Participating colleges and the Georgia Tech Research Corporation will also select the top undergraduate researcher in each college. An awards ceremony will follow the symposium at 4:30 p.m. in the Student Center Ballroom. Symposium sponsors include Georgia Tech’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), the Georgia Tech Research Corporation (GTRC), and the Georgia Tech Foundation.