April 24, 2008

Undergrads Present at C.U. Research Board Forum

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Cornell is renowned for its various fields of research, which comes most prominently from the graduate community. However, as the spring undergraduate forum held by the Cornell University Research Board showcased last night, undergraduate research is also prevalent at C.U.
The forum featured presentations from undergraduates of all the colleges, each of whom had different motivations for being there.
Eric O’Hanon ’10, spoke about the danger of Bovine Growth Hormone, a hormone present in milk in American cows.
“I did this research for a class, and I figured this [forum] was the best way to present it to interested people,” he said, explaining his motivation for participating in the forum. “And, I just like talking to people,” he added
Christopher Castorena, ’09 spoke for another reason. “I got research funding, and it required that I do this,“ said Castorena, whose presentation focused on the evolutionary characteristics of bees.
Jorge Cham, the creator of the comic Piled Higher and Deeper (PhD), a chronicle of life a graduate student, was the keynote speaker.
Cham, who holds a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University, offered humorous comments on the woes of being a graduate student.
“Most grad students I knew weren’t eccentric geniuses,” he said, “they were just trying to survive.”
The audience seemed to enjoy Cham’s speech.
“Popular culture kind of ignores all of us.” he added, “all these TV shows are about cops, lawyers, doctors … I mean, real doctors,” prompting laughter from the audience.
Cham also warned of the personal problems and the impacts of the pressure all graduate students faced.
“Basically, your ego gets crushed,” he said amid laughter. “You feel dumber in grad school … as if maybe the reason you got in was a clerical error.”
Following the Keynote speech, CURB presented awards to the top three presentations. The first place award went to Emelia Day ’09, second place award went to Akshey Shekhar ’09 and Ajinkya Rane ’09. Third place went to Floris van Breugel ’08.
In addition, the CUPRB presented the Marilyn Emmons William Award, an award that goes to the professor that most helps foster undergraduate research, to Prof. Parfait Eloundou-Enyegue, sociology.
Upon accepting the award, Eloundou-Enyegue commented to Cham, “If you think being a graduate student crushes the ego, try being a professor.”