September 04, 2013

Bucknell's Erin Schuler '15 details her neuroscience research at the Susquehanna Valley Undergraduate Research Forum.

By Matt Hughes

DANVILLE, Pa. — Wenhui Xie '15 is a philosophy major conducting social science research about the public health impact of a community athletic field; Meng Yang '14 is a math and economics major studying traffic accidents in the Marcellus Shale region; Emma Vitolo '14 is a music-education major examining coordination of earthquake relief efforts in Haiti.

These and other Bucknell University students presenting work at the third annual Susquehanna Valley Undergraduate Research Symposium showed the breadth of their liberal arts education.

"There are a lot of projects here and a lot of interesting topics I never would have thought about," said Greg Danchik '15, who is conducting a playground injury risk assessment with Christopher DiDomenico '13 and Professor Eric Kennedy. "It's a good place to put myself out there and show people what I've done as well as make connections with people from different universities."

The symposium, which is jointly sponsored by the Bucknell Institute for Public PolicyBloomsburg University and Geisinger Health System, provides undergraduate researchers a venue to showcase their work in the natural, clinical/translational and social sciences. Students from Bucknell, Bloomsburg and Susquehanna universities as well as Geisinger research interns presented posters outlining ongoing and recently completed projects at Geisinger's Henry Hood Center for Health Research.

"Being able to explain your work to other people, especially to a mixed crowd that isn't necessarily made up of experts in your field, really helps the professional development of the students and their communications skills," said Professor Amy Wolaver, co-director of the Bucknell Institute for Public Policy. "It's also a nice chance to look back and reflect at what you've done over the summer." 

The symposium has grown in popularity since its establishment in 2010, said David Ledbetter, Geisinger's chief scientific officer.

"At the first event we had 20 posters; this year we're up to 67 posters and 150 attendees," Ledbetter said. "I'm thrilled to see the growth of this event."

Nearly half of the submitted projects were prepared by Bucknell students. In total, 44 Bucknell students participated, four of whom also served as Geisinger interns. Charles Cole '14 and Becky Boucher '14 won two of the symposium's three grand prizes for their projects, and Mahder Etuma '16, Aylin Dincer '14, Sarah Denning '16, Rich Pisano '15 and Christine Sharp '14 were also lauded with awards for their posters.

But beyond these accolades, undergraduate researchers said participation in the event offered its own rewards.

"This really lets people expand their knowledge, and that's what a liberal arts education is: expanding your knowledge and understanding new things," said Hayden Yancey '14, who is performing a qualitative assessment of health in the Central Columbia School District with Xie and Sociology Professor Carl Milofsky. "It's a conducive environment for that."

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