Student research conference will be in Edmond next year

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EDMOND — More than 100 of the state’s undergraduate researchers presented their work this month at a conference that will be in Oklahoma next year for the first time.

“We really want it to be a statewide effort. It is not just UCO,” said Greg Wilson, co-chairman for the 2018 National Conference on Undergraduate Research, which will be held at the University of Central Oklahoma.

“We have a lot to show and a lot to do.”

Upwards of 5,000 students and faculty members will travel to Edmond next year for the three-day NCUR. The conference will include excursions to downtown Oklahoma City and other local attractions.

“I think it is really good to have it at the University of Central Oklahoma, because they will do such a fantastic job. … They are deeply engaged in undergraduate research,” said Elizabeth Ambos, executive officer of the Council on Undergraduate Research, who heads up NCUR.

This year’s conference was hosted by the University of Memphis with more than 4,200 in attendance; disciplines ranged from science to theater performance.

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Rooms in 18 buildings were needed to accommodate the sessions, including a ballroom filled with posters and dance studios bulging with performers.

Students from 13 countries and all 50 states came to the conference, which is one of the largest undergraduate interdisciplinary conferences in the nation.

Next year’s conference will be April 5-7, with pre-conference workshops on April 4.

“This is our NCAA,” said Julio Ramirez, a psychology professor at Davidson College and winner of the Goldwater award from the Council on Undergraduate Research.

“Passion is infectious.”

Co-chairman Michael Springer said UCO will need as many as 2,000 hotel rooms within a 10-mile radius, along with bus service to move guests around the area.

“We even want to offer some service to get them to places in the evening,” said Springer, who expects Bricktown and the Boathouse District to be busy during the conference.

Several months before the conference, abstracts will be submitted by students and chosen by faculty from Oklahoma universities, which Wilson said will take a lot of planning.

“When you register 5,000 people, that is an undertaking just in itself,” Wilson said.

After the university was chosen two years ago, 22 planning committees were created. Organizers spent the three days in Memphis evaluating strengths and weaknesses, learning how to prepare the entire community.

“This whole conference is not just a UCO production, it is a whole state production,” said Dana Jackson-Hardwick, one of the planners. More than 600 volunteers will be needed.

“It is a great experience to expand your research and share it with the community,” said Daniel Henthorn, an American Indian who studies science at Oklahoma State University.

Henthorn advocates for others to get involved in science, technology, engineering and mathematic (STEM).

“This is what I care about as a Native American, us being in STEM,” he said.

Displaying research on how stress can be overcome with dance, junior Bailey Burns said attending the Memphis conference was a way to share her voice about what she cares about.

“I personally came because I wanted more people to know about anxiety,” she said. “Most people do not understand how common it is.”

Olivia Wells, a sophomore at UCO, spent more than three months preparing to present on the Meisner technique, a way in which actors live through the characters.

The conference in Edmond “will shine a light on the tremendous high quality of research in Oklahoma,” Ambos said.

“I think it is a really key state. I think it has so much wealth of research.”

[PHOTO BY ERIECH TAPIA]

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