KSU students presenting in largest undergraduate research conference
KENNESAW, Ga. (Apr 12, 2021) — Kennesaw State University undergraduate students will present nearly 120 research projects from an array of academic disciplines this week at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR), which will be conducted virtually to maintain COVID-19 safety guidelines.
“NCUR is the world's largest undergraduate research conference, and for the last several years, KSU has been a leader in terms of the number of students who present,” said Amy Buddie, director of undergraduate research and professor of psychology. “NCUR is designed specifically for students, which means that it has more student-oriented content than a typical conference. For example, the event often hosts workshops on applying to graduate school or obtaining prestigious scholarships and fellowships.”
Kennesaw State students will connect with faculty mentors and have opportunities for professional growth through the three-day celebration of undergraduate research, beginning today. Buddie believes that this year’s virtual format provides more opportunities for students to participate, as the reduced registration costs and eliminated travel expenses make the conference more accessible. Additionally, some students recognize other unique benefits.
“I’m optimistic for how it will turn out, because there is more room for creativity in presenting projects virtually than there would be with a normal poster board,” said Brandon Crasto, a senior biochemistry major who will be presenting research for the first time at NCUR.
His research aims to estimate snow depth from repeat photographs using an automated script he wrote in the R programming language. While snow depth is usually measured by hand or with expensive sensors, Crasto is analyzing hundreds of photographs from a sub-alpine Rocky Mountain forest in Wyoming to program different approaches for snow identification. The resulting estimations are then compared to data from an actual snow depth sensor.
“Brandon is a highly motivated student who started this project for credit, but he is now doing it entirely in his spare time,” said Mario Bretfeld, assistant professor of biology and faculty mentor to Crasto. “The cool thing is that he keeps bringing new ideas to the table and has even taught me a thing or two about R programming.”
Cristy Kennedy, an interactive design major and participant in KSU’s First-Year Scholars Program, appreciates that NCUR fosters collaboration and learning between students and faculty mentors. She has been working under Sara Doan, assistant professor of technical communication, to produce research examining the circulation of COVID-19 information within African American communities in the South.
“Dr. Doan has had a significant impact on my personal and educational growth. Not only is she an incredibly wise and well-accomplished professor and researcher, but also an involved mentor,” Kennedy said. “With Dr. Doan, I have learned more in the span of a semester than I did in most of my high school years. She is constantly teaching me new things, pushing me to new heights and opening me up to new opportunities and possibilities.”
Jon-Paul Faix, a third-year student majoring in geography with a minor in applied statistics and analytics, is also excited to present his findings and showcase the communication skills he has gained through his involvement in undergraduate research. His research project studies why a Canadian team has not been the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup champion since 1993.
“We used statistical methods to look at different factors between American and Canadian teams that could explain why a Canadian team has not won,” Faix said “This includes factors such as nationality of players, salary and number of seasons played in the NHL.”
Faix shared that conducting this research allowed him to expand his knowledge of coding and statistics, develop skills he will use in the professional world, and gain mentorship from faculty mentors Michael Frankel, professor of mathematics, and Joseph DeMaio, professor of mathematics and data science.
“Undergraduate research has been shown to be a ‘high-impact’ practice for students, helping students improve in skills that graduate schools and employers are looking for, such as critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving,” explained Buddie. “If students have the opportunity to present outside of KSU at a conference like NCUR, their work can reach a wider audience and can have an even bigger impact.”
— Dorothy Corbett
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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. 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. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.