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Area Undergraduates Share Research at Conference

April 7, 2009 – More than 50 area undergraduates from Georgetown, George Washington, George Mason and Catholic universities showcased their research projects April 2-3 during this year’s student-organized Undergraduate Research Conference, sponsored by the School of Nursing and Health Studies.   The students gathered in Riggs Library to share their science- and health-related research through posters and oral presentations.

Dr. Frank Torti, former acting commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, kicked off the two-day conference on Thursday evening in Bunn Intercultural Center with a keynote address about the diverse career opportunities available to students in science.

“Science is a very broad discipline,” said Torti. “Your posters support that observation. …There is something special about science. You are limited only by your own curiosity.”

Participants presented their posters to a panel of judges during the morning session. In the afternoon, several undergraduates, who had been previously selected by the student planning committee, gave oral presentations about their research.

 “It is a great opportunity to put theory into practice early in your career and to learn logistical elements of scientific discovery,” said Harrison Holcomb (NHS’11), a member of the conference’s student planning committee.

Topics ranged from the HIV/AIDS epidemic to using electronic health records to repetitive physical training in spinal cord injury. Participants gave detailed talks about their work, and for most, the conference provided an experience they could take into the rest of their academic and professional careers.

“It’s definitely very helpful in that you get firsthand experience of what research is really like,” said Justin Laracy (C’10), a biology major who conducted research on spinal cord injury at Georgetown University Medical Center. “I enjoy explaining what I do.”

Aside from the opportunity to present their work and gain valued academic experience, the students received awards -- named this year in honor of conference founder and adviser Dr. Charles Evans, chair of the human science department -- for their presentations.

Nursing majors Elizabeth Kucharczyk (NHS’09) and Leah Ruppe (NHS’09) won the best poster award for “An Evaluation of a Pilot Educational Program on Nursing Management of Childhood Loss and Grief;” human science major Stephanie Zare (NHS’09) won for best oral presentation for “Static Arch Height: A Poor Predictor of Stress Fracture Risk in Male Athletes;” and pre-med student Elizabeth Seaman (C’12) earned the first runner-up poster award for “Teen Driver Knowledge about Emergency Situations -- an Epidemiological Study.”

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