The most ever student-researchers from North Central College—32—were accepted to attend the National Conference for Undergraduate Research in April. "This is impressive because we’ve never had this many students apply and it really reflects a changing culture here, a true culture of inquiry,” says Perry Hamalis, director of the Office of Academic Opportunities and assistant professor of religious studies. “Not only are they engaging in more rigorous research projects but they are taking the next step to present their findings at conferences.”
The conference was held at the University of Montana in Missoula, where 2,600 students and faculty members from more than 300 colleges and universities gathered for oral speeches, poster sessions, performances and visual arts displays. North Central students represented a full range of disciplines, including the sciences, global studies, German, art, English and dance. They were accompanied by Robert Moussetis, associate professor of international business, and Christine Weilhoefer, assistant professor of biology.
Weien Wang ’11, who is completing a biology major and English minor, presented research he conducted in China last summer using a Richter Independent Study Fellowship. He spent five weeks there investigating medical ethics by interviewing Chinese physicians. “The conference was a good opportunity to talk about something that means something to me,” he says. “The audience response was really positive, which made for a surprisingly engaging question-and-answer session; one student, originally from Poland, drew comparisons between my discussion on China’s medical system and that of his home country some years past.”
Learning more about students’ research from other disciplines was a great experience, says Grace Muganda ’11, a computer science and biochemistry major who presented neurobiology research she conducted over the summer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “The presentations from my fellow North Central students were very well done,” she adds. “We all tried to support each other.”
Both agreed that an added bonus of the conference was the mountain setting and options for activities like hiking.
Hamalis likes the fact that many North Central students are embracing research earlier in their academic careers and applying for conference acceptance over multiple years. “This is something that you put on your application for graduate school,” he says. “After all, this is what graduate students do—they conduct research and present it.”
North Central NOW Spring 2010