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Honors students earn right to present at conference

Eighteen students have received the opportunity to represent John Brown University at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research later this semester. An annual gathering of students from across the country, the conference will be held at the University of Wisconsin on April 11-13.

The students will be presenting original research to conference attendees in small group settings. Sixteen total presentations, including two groups of pairs, is a record for the University, said Trisha Posey, director of the Honors Scholars Program. Altogether, 3,500 abstracts were submitted to NCUR. University students submitted 19 abstracts, 16 of which were accepted.

Students selected range from sophomore to senior level. For some, it will be their first time to present research at a collegiate level, while others return as veterans.

Senior biology major Victoria Bennett has presented at two conferences in the past but is excited for the new opportunities the national conference entails.

During her time at the University, Bennett has attended the Great Plains Honors Conference twice. Her sophomore year she discussed a paper focused on the perception of Mary Magdalene, and her junior year shifted her research to the proper identification of sex-trafficking victims in the United States.

This year, two of Bennett’s projects made the cut.

For more than a semester, Bennett worked to finish an honors capstone project with Nick Ogle, assistant professor of family studies. The project, titled “Sex Education in Conservative Christian Families: Impact on Females,” was a qualitative research study.

She and two other University students, Josh Morgan and Thomas Galliguez, helped assistant professor of biology Joel Funk. Their research, “Sequence Analysis of Conserved Baculovirus Genes in Plodia interpunctella Granulovirus,” will also be presented.

Bennett enjoyed working closely with both faculty members and is thankful for the help and advice each gave her.

“They are both great professors who did an excellent job of explaining the various steps of the research project and walking me through what to do and how to do it,” she said.

Posey said that the acceptances demonstrate the “commitment of the faculty members to devote to student research… this is a way of showing good research happens at smaller private schools.”

While Bennett admitted that it can be nerve-wracking presenting to a room of strangers, she remained eager to take advantage of this opportunity offered through the Honors Scholars Program. Bennett is excited to have one more opportunity to present her research, in addition to learning from the other research that will be presented.

For Posey, national research conferences are important in the process of a student’s professionalization. University students meet and connect with students from all across the country, especially those involved and interested in similar areas of research.

Students who plan to attend graduate school, about half of those going, may also form relationships that will further their academic careers.

“In some ways, this is a culminating experience of their four years at JBU,” Posey said.

To her, the 16 acceptances are not just proof of a strong honors program, but of a collective effort of the campus as a whole. She extends her appreciation to all of the faculty and non-honors students who worked tirelessly with these students on their research.

“This is not just an honors accomplishment, but something the University as a whole can be proud of,” she concluded.