Metro launches university-level research conference

Metro seniors Stephan O'Horo, left, and Matthew Arellano measure how Cherry Creek responds to precipitation events like snow and rain for an undergraduate research project they will present in the North Atrium April 20.

Metro seniors Stephan O'Horo, left, and Matthew Arellano measure how Cherry Creek responds to precipitation events like snow and rain for an undergraduate research project they will present in the North Atrium April 20.

Metro’s name change is freshening the inspiration of its academic departments. As a result, a new program for university-level undergraduate research is about to debut at Auraria.

After months of training and years of waiting, the first undergraduate research conference for Metro will take place April 20 in several locations throughout North Classroom and North Atrium. The conference will showcase the dedication and commitment of more than 160 Metro students from more than 30 different departments and disciplines.

“We know Metro students are very heavily involved in research, but would they want to share it,” Andrew Bonham, Metro professor of chemistry said. “We were blown away by the participation rate.”

The conference is free to attend and open to the public. It begins at 9 a.m. and concludes with an award ceremony in Tivoli Turnhalle at 4 p.m. Metro President Stephen Jordan will award grants to the winning presentations from three categories: President’s award (three winners), Provosts’s award (three winners) and the One World, One Water award (one winner).

“As Metro becomes more academically focused on research and granting students research opportunities as a tool to get a job, it’s been raised that we have a whole lot of students who already are participating in the research process,” Bonham said. “This conference is providing a forum where they can share the fruits of that labor back to the college.”

Since it began, Metro has had no formal organization of undergraduate student research beyond sparse, individual events held by various departments like Earth and atmospheric sciences and psychology.

Metro’s faculty individually chose to include their students in their own research projects because they cared for them and their futures and understood the importance of hands-on training, according to Metro land use professor and undergraduate research program faculty associate Thomas Davinroy.

“Four-year colleges didn’t traditionally include research as part of the curriculum; universities were the centers where research was conducted,” Davinroy said. “But that wasn’t the case here at Metro. Faculty took it upon themselves by their own initiative to conduct research and to include their students in those research projects.”

The conference’s deadline for abstract proposals passed April 9. Currently, there are more than 160 presentations that are either lectures or poster board displays. Approximately 53 presentations are in the natural sciences, 62 in the social sciences, 6 submissions in art, 10 in humanities, 14 in Education and more in specialized fields, business, and other disciplines.

Pamela Ansberg, Metro professor of psychology, and Davinroy’s counterpart in directing the conference, estimates that 120 faculty members are involved in mentoring of the student research projects.

“The purpose of the conference is to support and celebrate student research at Metro,” she said. “We are finding ways to help faculty integrate undergraduates into their research programs and to use that integration as a way of teaching. It’s an intensive, one-on-one teaching mechanism.”

Ansberg said the conference, which is a major step for the agenda of the newly established Undergraduate Research Program at Metro, would eventually include a mentoring program for instructors to better prepare students for graduate school and their careers. As Metro settles into its university status, the recognition surrounding its longtime academic accomplishments is on the rise.

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