Annual series of undergraduate research and scholarship events celebrates “Minds @ Work”

20160429-4_Celebration of Writing and Student Research Symposium_RA_101More than 300 students representing all five of SUNY New Paltz’s disciplinary schools presented research and creative projects as part of “Minds @ Work,” the spring semester tradition honoring independent study and student/faculty collaboration.

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The program included the 22nd annual Student Research Symposium, held for the first time in the renovated Sojourner Truth Library, featuring poster presentations of original research from more than 100 student scholars. The Symposium is sponsored by the Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities (RSCA) Program, which supports research partnerships between students and faculty members as they strive to make new contributions to their fields.

“The process of producing scholarship through research and/or creative activities is both challenging and exciting,” said RSCA Director and Professor of Biology Maureen Morrow. “We know that these types of experiences impart gains in important skills such as critical thinking and communication, and we are grateful to the faculty who provide these opportunities for students.”

The Student Research Symposium’s celebration of student activity beyond the classroom serves as a reminder of the increasing emphasis placed on high-impact experiential learning by graduate schools and employers, and the corresponding value that dedicated faculty mentorship can produce in the lives of young scholars.

“I’ve talked to friends at bigger schools who say they don’t get to talk to their professors the same way I’ve been able to at New Paltz,” said Chevonne McInnis ’16 (Physics). “I think that’s one of the best things about this school – my faculty advisors have always been there to answer questions and guide me through every step of the research process.”

McInnis presented the results of a study titled “Optical Tweezers: How to Get a Good Trap,” for which she worked alongside Assistant Professor of Physics Catherine Herne. She said this and other research projects came up repeatedly as she applied and was accepted to advance to graduate study in aerospace engineering at Iowa State University.

“I think the fact that I have done research is one of the reasons I got in,” McInnis said. “It shows that you can learn on your own, apply yourself, think outside the box and do the things that graduate schools and employers want you to be able to do.”

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Student Chevonne McInnis ’16 (Physics) speaks with Symposium-goers about her research on optics.

Also at the Symposium, Amy Papaelias, assistant professor of graphic design in the Department of Art, was presented with the 2015-16 Faculty Mentor Award, given each year to recognize the instrumental role educators play in unlocking New Paltz students’ potential to produce meaningful scholarship.

A faculty colleague’s nomination of Papaelias for this award described her as “an early supporter of student research,” who “works with students on projects that are on the emergent edge of design practice, and helps launch her mentees into successful professional careers.”

Other “Minds @ Work” events included presentations of Honors student theses, the return of the Celebration of Writing presentation of original student fiction, non-fiction and poetry, the screening of three student-produced documentary films and the opening of a student art exhibition.

The complete 2016 Student Research Symposium Abstract Book is available as a pdf document.

Learn more about undergraduate research at SUNY New Paltz on the RSCA website.