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Undergraduates Show Off Health, Science Research

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April 9, 2010 – Meaningful research is often reserved for graduate students. But Georgetown undergraduates, as an April 8 conference highlighted, work side-by-side with faculty members on a wide variety of complex research projects.

The students' science- and health-related projects were showcased on campus during the Undergraduate Research Conference.

Paul Sampognaro (C'10), for example, has explored how neurons get their shape in relation to the cerebral cortex, while Brigitte Granger (NHS'10) found a correlation between increased tobacco use and students studying abroad.

"It's amazing to see three years of research accomplish real scientific discoveries," said Sampognaro, who worked on neuron research with assistant professor of biology Maria Donoghue. "It's a great feeling to know you're making advances in the field, and that when you discover something under a microscope lens, you're seeing something that no one else ever has."

Sponsored by the School of Nursing & Health Studies, the student-organized conference highlights the work nearly 50 Georgetown and local university undergraduates have completed with their faculty mentors. The conference is an indispensable chance, organizers said, for emerging researchers to hone their skills.

"Some of the projects are part of theses and nearly finished. Others are in the beginning stages, and those students get a lot of feedback and ideas about how to proceed," said Chelsea Feldman (NHS'11), one of the conference organizers.

‘A Richer Intellectual Experience'

Georgetown provides several opportunities for undergraduate researchers, who become full partners in labs alongside graduate students and faculty members.

Participating in research strongly enhances an undergraduate's college career, said Allan Angerio, associate professor of human science.

"It gives a richer intellectual experience. More important than what they do is the process that they go through," Angerio said. "It teaches them to look for results they may not expect and to begin with a blank slate. That will help them work with patients or become better researchers later on."

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