Are You SURE You Know?

While most relaxed, traveled or partied over the summer, 12 undergraduate students at SUNY New Paltz teamed up with professors to dig deep and discover the unknown.

The members of the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) presented their research projects on Sept. 4, 9 and 10. These projects were thoroughly researched and put together into presentations by the students with the help of their faculty mentor.

For 20 years, the Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities Program (RSCA), through programs like SURE, has given students the opportunity to research a topic they are interested in and then present their findings, on a small grant from the school. The topics range from science, mathematics, engineering, fine and performing arts and liberal arts.

Topics this year included ecosystem changes in Lake Minnewaska, exploring the use of speaker identity in speech perception and a numerical investigation of the Group Foliation Method.

Associate Professor Maureen Morrow, director of the Undergraduate RSCA, began the research symposium in spring 1995, one year after starting her job as a professor at SUNY New Paltz.

In 1994, she was presented with a student research project for a grade and began the symposium the following year to allow the knowledge to be shared, from those who worked hard to get it to all who will listen.

“I could not believe that I would be the only one to see this terrific work,”  Morrow said when recalling her motivation for starting the program.

With no competition involved, the faculty mentor applies for the grant from the RSCA, briefly describing their topic and budget plan.

The application is reviewed by an advisory board, who determines if the mentor and student will be awarded $750 to fund their summer research project.

The board evaluates applications based on the topic’s diversity, as well as the writing quality of the proposal itself and the budget for the grant money, according to Michelle Pielli, secretary for the RSCA.

The board receives a very diverse range of topics and applications, according to Assistant Professor Vicki Tromanhauser, a member of the advisory board for the RSCA.

“It excites me to see applications in all different areas,” Tromanhauser said. “I’m in the English department, but I love seeing the proposals and the presentations in such a variety of subjects.”

Christina Covington, who presented her project on a diagnosis scale of symptoms of Lyme’s disease, said the experience was great. She met with her mentor Dr. Maryellen Citera once a week to discuss the project.

Upon conclusion of the project, mentors can apply for an Undergraduate Research Experience Travel Award (URETA) and receive funding to go with their student to a conference in the topic they researched.

These conferences have taken place in New York, nearby states and some as far as Honolulu.