“Minds at Work” events showcase student research and scholarship

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A day of celebration of student scholarly work was highlighted by the 21st annual SUNY New Paltz Student Research Symposium (SRS), where more than 80 students joined their faculty mentors in presenting the results of collaborative research projects in an array of academic disciplines.

Student scholarship treated subjects as diverse as green infrastructure on campus, local plant and animal populations, international human rights and New York State school curriculum reform.

“I’m sometimes asked what makes me most proud as President here at SUNY New Paltz. My ready answer is that it’s the accomplishments of our students,” said President Donald P. Christian. “We’re especially pleased when you venture out of classroom and enter into the unscripted intellectual landscape of collaborative research, scholarship and creative activity, and even more so when you succeed in those endeavors.”

The Student Research Symposium is possible thanks in large part to the efforts of Maureen Morrow, director of Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities (RSCA) and professor of biology, who has been a champion of student research presentations since she helped organize the first SRS.

“Students everywhere are doing amazing work on campus, and that deserves to be recognized,” Morrow said. “Part of the process of learning is learning how to communicate. The practice of organizing and presenting information is valuable to students at this stage of their academic lives.”

The SRS was just one of a series of “Minds at Work” events on May 1 at which students had opportunities to present their recent scholarly activity. Others included the Honors Program Thesis Presentations, the Art Studio BFA Thesis Exhibition at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, and Celebration of Writing Day, a New Paltz tradition honoring student writing in categories ranging from creative fiction and poetry to academic writing to memoir.

The day’s program also saw the awarding of the 2014-15 Faculty Mentor Award to Spencer Mass, lecturer in the department of biology, whom President Christian described as “a valued supporter of undergraduate research on campus,” noting his work with more than two dozen students in academic and research experiences over the past three years.

“The success of our undergraduate research efforts relies on close collaboration between faculty and students,” said Philip Mauceri, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “The faculty at New Paltz are truly teacher-scholars; that is, they integrate their teaching and their scholarship in ways that enhance the educational experience of students beyond the classroom.”

This has been the case for Izabela Mlynarska ’15 (Biology), who worked with Mass on an investigation entitled, “Effects of BPA on the Tubulin Cytoskeleton of Planaria,” which she shared at the SRS.

“Dr. Mass has been crucial in helping me realize that I can go on and do great things, whether in graduate school or a professional school,” Mlynarska said. “He’s always there, always available, and just a great mentor.”

More information about the Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity program, the Student Research Symposium and a list of past recipients of the Faculty Mentor Award are available online.