Eli Capilouto

Guest Entry: 2013 National Conference on Undergraduate Research

Published: Apr 16, 2013

Earlier this semester, I welcomed the first "guest blogger" to share her experience at the 2013 Inauguration. The second in the series, Keith Hautala (UKPR) chronicles the 2013 National Conference on Undergraduate Research as the University of Kentucky prepares to host in 2014.

 

Please enjoy.

 

 

By Keith Hautala

 

Some 30 University of Kentucky undergraduates and four staff members boarded a bus early Wednesday morning and headed north for the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. The student contingent would be joining their peers from hundreds of colleges and universities across the country to give oral and poster presentations at what has become the largest conference of its kind. The staff members would join a handful of UK representatives already in La Crosse, to observe and prepare for when the University of Kentucky and Lexington host NCUR in 2014.

 

After a 12-hour ride -- leaving behind the warmth of the Bluegrass for chilly Northern climes -- the UK delegation showed no sign of weariness on Thursday morning.

 

Quite the opposite.

 

The students in particular, some still in their first year, seemed to have been overtaken by a sense of earnest enthusiasm and excitement. After spending a couple of days with them, it's easy to see why.

 

These students are not the type to become bored easily. Rather, they approach the world around them with an intense interest and a chronic curiosity that is never fully satisfied. I was struck, during the opening plenary presentation, by just how silent a room full of 1,000 students can be. They sat, rapt and enthralled, as they listened to Arctic explorer and preservationist Will Steger tell his story of a four-and-a-half-month long dogsled expedition, traversing hundreds of miles of hostile, barren ice. Steger spoke, almost offhandedly, about finally reaching the point of no access, "the place where nobody had ever been before."

 

That's really what research is all about. Going where nobody has been. Breaking boundaries, exploring. Learning things that had never been known. Adding to the vast store of humanity's knowledge of the natural world, as well as the worlds of our own creation. It's easy to understand why these students were excited. 

 

Talking to several of the UK students during the poster session, it became clear that these students are truly animated, even driven, by a passion for their work. It's the type of outlook that can turn just about any subject into the most interesting thing in the world. 

 

I learned from Gareth Voss about his investigation into the regeneration of salamander tails, and how someday this knowledge could have revolutionary implications for medicine. I talked with Sarah Whelan about the parasitic fish called lamprey, and how understanding the rearrangement of its genome could lead to new insights on cancer. I listened to Talia Henkle talk about her research involving EIAV, a horse virus similar to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. I met Mary McKenna, whose surveillance of bat activity could have immense value to agriculture.

 

These young scientists have embarked on paths that already lead far past graduation from UK. For them, research isn't just another school project. It's something important, something that actually matters. They aren't preparing for their futures, they are beginning them.

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Job Club: Job Search Strategies for the New Year: A 15 Day Action Plan
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Bicycle Trivia
LNFS Presents: Hercules
Wildcat Wellness: Meditation
Wed
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LNFS Presents: Dazed and Confused
LNFS Presents: Boyhood
MLK "I Have A Dream" Silent March, Vigil & Program
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MLK Multicutural Org Fair
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LNFS Presents: Mission Impossible 3
Wildcat Wellness: Meditation
Caregiver Support Group
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LNFS Presents: Big Hero 6
LNFS Presents: Together With You (He ni zai yi ki)
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LNFS Presents: Five Broken Cameras
LNFS Presents: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
National Student Exchange (NSE) Info Session
Cultural Coffee Hour
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Pershing Rifles Drill Meet
Welcome Back Students Swing Dance!
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Career & Major Exploration Session @ 11 a.m.
Career & Major Exploration Session @ Noon
Career & Major Exploration Session @ 2 p.m.
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Pinterest Party #1
Job Club: Using Networking to Find and Land a Hidden Job
Career & Major Exploration Session @ 1 p.m.
Career & Major Exploration Session @ 2 p.m.
Career & Major Exploration Session @ 3 p.m.
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LNFS Presents: There Will Be Blood
Wildcat Wellness: Meditation
National Student Exchange (NSE) Info Session
Chapel Talk: Why The Church Should Support Marriage Equality
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LNFS Presents: Mulholland Drive
LNFS Presents: Fury
Tattoo Exhibit
CatWatch Party #1
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LNFS Presents: Clerks
LNFS Presents: Friday
Cultural Coffee Hour
Faculty Media Depot Opening Reception
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Fri, 01/30/2015

Repeats every week every Friday until Fri May 01 2015 .
Fri, 01/30/2015

Mon, 02/02/2015

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