Exploration and Discovery! The 19th Annual Student Scholars Symposium

(May 1, 2013) Nearly 200 students continued a strong scholastic tradition by participating in Armstrong's 19th Annual Student Scholars Symposium. The daylong event showcased student research and discoveries from a multitude of disciplines that spanned across all four of the university's colleges.

New for 2013, the Scholars Symposium brought in keynote speaker Roger Rowlett, the Gordon and Dorothy Kline Professor of Chemistry at Colgate University. Rowlett inspired students and faculty alike by presenting “Five Myths and Three Stories about Undergraduate Research.”

“Students are as ready to do research as we make them,” said Rowlett as he debunked myth number one: Students are not intellectually ready for research.

According to Rowlett — who has supervised research for more than 150 undergraduates in his 31 years with Colgate — research can be approached in the same manner as you would the game of baseball. You can't just learn the ins and outs of the game for three years and then finally get on the field your senior year and succeed.

“How many people do you think would still be playing baseball after four years?” Rowlett asked.

Research at the undergraduate level is not only a way to engage students and capture their interests. For Rowlett, it is necessary for the academic success of each student. No one person is born knowing how to do research, they have to be taught. This brought Rowlett to myth number three: Undergraduate research is expensive.

“If you want to make research a priority, then you need to provide a curriculum that is research supported,” said Rowlett as he explained how to minimize the cost of undergraduate research through curriculum integration.

The challenge of a changed curriculum brought Rowlett to another myth: Undergraduate research is too time consuming.

“If it's in your curriculum, then you have to find time for it,” said Rowlett.

However, although you have to believe in a person's ability to perform, find the money and find the time, it doesn't end there.

“If you don't publish, it didn't happen,” said Rowlett debunking myth number four: It's not important to disseminate undergraduate research.

Some may feel that publishing isn't important because of myth number five — undergraduates cannot contribute to disciplinary knowledge — but in Rowlett's own department at Colgate, 63 percent of all the peer-reviewed publications were co-authored by undergraduates.

“Undergraduates can often see research problems in a fresh way,” said Rowlett.

While Rowlett's keynote address was certainly motivational, the nearly 100 student poster presentations and lectures showcased Armstrong undergraduates' ability to produce meaningful research.

There were scientific explorations, such as junior biology student Kristina Pascutti's presentation on the fungal species found inside of Loggerhead turtles. Practical research was also on display. Senior nursing major Kathryn Brown, for example, discussed her study on teaching future nurses how to educate patients.

Armstrong is already known for its dedication to student-focused education, and the Scholars Symposium reinforces that dedication. When it comes to exploring diverse learning experiences to engage and enlighten, no one does it better than a Pirate.