A Research Showcase
Kennesaw State to host nation’s top undergraduate research conference
KENNESAW, Ga. (Sep 24, 2018) — During his senior year at Kennesaw State University, Jake Massengill combined two of his interests – cyber security and nuclear engineering – and researched the cyber security of nuclear power plants in the United States.
Massengill determined that, while U.S. power plants’ computer systems are protected well, security still needs to be improved in order to protect against the constantly evolving threats from modern cyber attackers. He shared his findings this past spring as part of Kennesaw State’s contingent that attended the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR), the largest undergraduate research conference in the nation.
“Our students knocked it out of the park,” said Amy Buddie, director of Kennesaw State’s Office of Undergraduate Research. “They were so professional, and they clearly had been prepared well by their mentors. I was proud to be from Kennesaw State University with those students as our presenters.”
Most importantly for Massengill, his experience with conducting and presenting research helped him secure his first job. After graduating from KSU in May with a degree in industrial and systems engineering, Massengill was hired as a research technician in the University of Tennessee’s plant sciences department.
“I believe my research was greatly beneficial to landing this position and my research involvement at KSU will be helpful for this position,” Massengill said. “This research allowed me to exercise the tools and skills I have learned from my major, which allowed me to highlight the uniqueness of my degree.”
Nearly 100 KSU students presented their research at this year’s NCUR in Oklahoma, and Kennesaw State will be even more in the spotlight next year as the host of the National Conference on Undergraduate Research. Organizers expect more than 4,000 students from about 400 colleges and universities to converge on KSU for the 33rd annual NCUR, April 11-13, 2019.
“The conference has never been held in Georgia before, so this is a really good opportunity for Kennesaw State in particular, but also the University System of Georgia to coalesce around undergraduate research,” Buddie said. “We have a great campus. We’re going to show off for the nation’s undergraduate researchers.”
Being selected to host the national conference affirms KSU’s commitment to research, Buddie said. Kennesaw State was chosen as next year’s host in 2016, the same year that KSU began its Office of Undergraduate Research and the University was elevated to an R3 Carnegie classified institution. Undergraduate research is a key element of Kennesaw State’s strategic plan, and the University’s administration has increased funding for research in recent years, according to Buddie.
“It’s becoming known that we’re a hotbed of this,” she said. “Hosting NCUR means that everybody at the national organization, the Council on Undergraduate Research, knows about Kennesaw State University and why we’re important. On a national level, Kennesaw State is on the map in terms of undergraduate research.”
Case in point, KSU’s 93 students at this year’s NCUR were second only to the number from the host institution, the University of Central Oklahoma. With the conference in their backyard next year, Buddie is optimistic that Kennesaw State’s participation could rival the 441 students who presented at KSU’s annual Symposium of Student Scholars in April.
Also, unlike other conferences that are devoted to a specific discipline, “there is a space for everybody” at NCUR, Buddie said. Seven of Kennesaw State’s academic colleges were represented at the 2018 conference, with undergraduate students showcasing their research on a variety of subjects including architecture, art, biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering, psychology and public health.
NCUR also could spark an interest among students who aren’t already conducting research, Buddie explained. KSU students could be given class assignments pertaining to NCUR – such as attending presentations and writing about them – while some students might volunteer to help during the conference and others might stop by simply to see what NCUR is.
“Think about a first-year student who maybe has the stereotype that research is only for people in biology and chemistry,” Buddie said. “Then they go to an hour of sessions in their discipline and they think, ‘That is the coolest thing. I want to do that.’ So I think it can really be a catalyst for undergraduate research on our campus for the students who aren’t yet doing it.”
– Paul Floeckher
A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers more than 150 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its approximately 41,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the third-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 92 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status, and one of the 50 largest public institutions in the country. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.