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Undergraduate researchers show their stuff

  • At the poster session
    At the poster session  Rachel Anderson ’12 discusses her research project with Professor Paul Heideman of William & Mary's biology department. Anderson's presentation, on predation among aquatic invertebrates, was one of nearly 100 posters or discussions offered to the public at the 16th Annual Undergraduate Research Science Symposium, held Feb. at the Sadler Center. (Photo by Joseph McClain)  
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“I love these things,” Bob Pike said. “They are so helpful for the students—because if you can’t explain what you’re doing, then you haven’t really learned it, right?”

Pike, the Garrett-Robb-Guy Professor of Chemistry at William & Mary, had just made the rounds of the poster presentations on display at the 16th Annual Undergraduate Research Science Symposium. Held Feb. 26 in the Sadler Center, the event showcases the ongoing research work of the College’s science majors.

The symposium is sponsored by the Roy R. Charles Center, which coordinates undergraduate research experiences at William & Mary. Libby Neidenbach, a Ph.D. student in American studies, is a graduate assistant at the Charles Center and coordinated this year’s event.

“The purpose is to let the College community know what the undergrads are doing in the sciences,” Neidenbach said. “A lot of what is being presented here represents work done over the summer or for senior honors theses. It’s just a good way for them to showcase their work.”

Oral presentations of research went on in the James and York rooms, while posters were set up in Chesapeake A, where Neidenbach was staffing the reception desk. She said this year’s event had a good turnout, and indeed the aisles were almost clogged with students and faculty, many wearing the symposium-themed T-shirts.

“A lot of students will come in here to see what their roommates or their friends have been doing. Other students want to check out what’s going on with someone who works in the same lab as them,” Neidenbach said. “And we’re always glad to see the faculty come out.”

The event featured presentations from nearly 100 William & Mary undergraduates conducting faculty-mentored research in a number of departments and programs including biology, chemistry, environmental science, geology, kinesiology, physics and psychology.

The poster session is a common communications medium among researchers in the sciences and Pike spoke of its advantages.

“It’s informal,” he said. “You don’t get the kind of tense feelings that you get when you’re up in front of an audience. It’s good for the viewer, too, because you don’t have to think about composing a formal question. You can just walk up and say ‘Hey, what’s all this about?’”