Students say ‘yes’ to research

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The Jeffrey R. Holland  Centennial Commons and Gardner Center were teeming with knowledge Friday as students from all over Utah congregated for the ninth annual Utah Conference on Undergraduate Research. 

UCUR gives students the opportunity to present their undergraduate research to peers, faculty and field specialists. 

The Gardner Center was abuzz Friday morning, and the ballroom quickly filled. Novice researchers waited patiently for the keynote speaker to take the stage.

Lincoln Nadauld was introduced to the crowd by his father and former DSU President Stephen Nadauld before he took the stage. Then, he explained to the crowd that he too was in their position as an undergraduate researcher. His speech then explained the steps he took to get where he is, and he continually put emphasis on a question he was asked by his would-be mentor David Jones at the Huntsman Cancer Institute.

“He said to me [something] I’ll never forget,” Nadauld said. “He said, ‘So, you have an interest in research?”’

He said he couldn’t have imagined what lies ahead of him when he said “yes” to that question, and that is what he wanted to share with the crowd.

“What you study, it turns out, is not nearly as important as doing the study or participating in research,” Nadauld said.

UCUR was composed of 125 poster presentations and 133 oral presentations that were held on the fourth floor of the Holland Building.

RonJai Staton, a senior psychology major from Naha, Japan, said he was nervous to present to such esteemed peers and professionals, but he thinks he did well in delivering his oral presentation.

“Any opportunity to get more experience in something, whether it’s [my] work or education, I jump on it,” Staton said.  

Stephen Armstrong, Undergraduate Research Committee chair and an associate professor of English, said he was pleased with the turnout and that all the speakers were there.

An institution of higher learning within Utah is chosen each year to host the UCUR, and shortly after DSU became a university, the UCUR committee decided it was time for DSU to host it, Armstrong said.

“With hard work, smart people and dedication from DSU employees and students, we’ve had this come together,” Armstrong said. “And I couldn’t be happier.”

He said the event was meticulously planned, and, as a result, the participants knew where to go for each of the presentations. 

Erica Armstrong, a senior psychology and speech and hearing sciences major at the University of Utah from Salt Lake City, said she is working toward her Ph.D., and the research she has done will look good when she applies to graduate school. But, she said she wasn’t so concerned with grad school when she started doing research three years ago. She only got into researching because she found out that the University of Utah had a program were she would get paid to do it.

William Christensen, vice president of academics, said the little things that come from undergraduate research are where the value is. It is working with teachers and learning in a hands-on way that creates that value.

“For a student to be involved in this sort of thing sets them apart on their resume and their transcript if they seek to go to either graduate school or into the work place,” Christensen said. 

Some students who attended the conference as spectators were only there to complete a class requirement. But, others were genuinely interested in what it had to offer. Nicholas Coulter, a senior biology major from St. George, plans on doing research in the future, so he was excited to hear the UCUR was being hosted at DSU.

“One of my class requirements is the poster and another is the oral presentations,” Coulter said, “but I would have done them anyway.”