The Spring Forum is not a discussion about the season of spring, though that topic could easily be one of hundreds of topics discussed in it.
Over 100 undergraduate students hailing from all seven colleges showcased their research last week in the 20th Cornell Undergraduate Research Board (CURB) Spring Forum, culminating in the organization’s largest annual event that brought over 400 students and faculty to participate.
“The Spring Forum is the largest showcase of undergraduate research [at Cornell], and also the most diverse,” said Galia Porat ’05, president of CURB.
CURB, despite the organization’s acronym, is actually in the business of encouraging more undergraduate students to conduct research and of enhancing the experiences of those students who are already involved in Cornell’s undergraduate research opportunities.
“It’s important now for students to get involved in undergrad research,” said Prof. Philip Liu, civil and environmental engineering, and keynote speaker at the forum.
“The Spring Forum is an opportunity for undergrads to present their research and what they learned,” said Ahmed Mousa ’06, next year’s president of CURB. “And it’s an opportunity for everyone in the Cornell community to celebrate such research.”
Liu was invited to speak at the forum for his work as expedition leader in Sri Lanka for a project that focused on last December’s earthquake and tsunami. Keynote speakers from previous years have included Bill Nye ’77, Hans Bethe, and National Science Foundation director Rita Colwell, among others.
“Keynote speakers … have addressed the [researchers] and the Cornell community with words of advice to help them on their paths to the future,” states the organization’s mission statement.
Liu stressed the importance of involvement in undergraduate research, saying that when it came to applying for graduate research programs, students with undergraduate research experience were much more likely to get accepted into graduate programs than those who did not.
“It has almost become an assumption that students have had [undergraduate] research experience already,” Liu said. “[Research] motivates the students more, so they understand … certain courses better and the practical aspect is the experience in logistical applications.” “Prof. Liu shared his personal experiences as an undergraduate doing research as well,” Mousa added.
Katherine Weber ’05 was one of the presenters in this year’s Spring Forum, sharing her research on a number of topics including the effect of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on trade between the United States and Mexico. She also submitted her work for her honors thesis in addition to the Cornell Presidential Scholars program.
“It was a great experience sharing my research … I was impressed by what my peers have done,” Weber said.
Visitors to the forum could also vote for their top choice for presenter. CURB announced Jeff Ballyns ’05 took first place for research in mechanical engineering, Douglas Hughes ’05 took second for mechanical and aerospace engineering, and Koji Yasuda ’05 took third for animal sciences. 70 undergraduate researchers presented their work through various posters and visual aids, while 30 researchers presented their work orally to visitors.
“[There was a lot of] mingling and interacting with other students at the forum, students trying to get others involved with research … and to show them what’s possible,” said Bruce Monger, senior research associate of earth and atmospheric sciences, and advisor to CURB.
Members of CURB emphasized that the research they encouraged spanned from all fields and disciplines. Hundreds of undergraduates have presented works “ranging from forensic science to discourses on Kant in the past 19 years of the forum,” states the organization’s website.
“It was a big success … much bigger this year than before. We held it in Duffield Hall, which was open and allowed for a lot of walkthrough traffic,” Porat added.
Other than the Spring Forum, CURB also participates in Cornell Days information sessions, geared toward informing the incoming freshmen and potential student candidates of the vast number of research opportunities available at Cornell. In past years, they have invited faculty from all fields of the University to speak on panels to discuss the possibilities of research that are available to undergraduates.