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Inaugural presentations at the Georgia Capitol highlights undergraduate research across the state


Johnny Grant looks at a poster on display at the Capitol.

It began as an idea in 2015. A Georgia College faculty member and staff member were inspired by a national event through the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) called Posters on the Hill. It’s where students from across the country showcase their research on Capitol Hill in Washington DC.

They thought why can’t we bring this to Georgia?

Dr. Dee Sams, marketing professor, and Robin Lewis, director of the Office of Grants and Sponsored Projects, presented the idea to the Georgia Undergraduate Research Collective (GURC) and others to garner support. With that unanimous support, the pair worked to turn the idea into a reality.

The inaugural Undergraduate Research Posters at the Georgia State Capitol event took place March 27, 2019. The 40 student posters represented 12 institutions of higher learning from across Georgia, including 10 University System of Georgia (USG) colleges and universities.

"Engaging in undergraduate research (UR) and presentations of that research is a valued transformative learning experience for student researchers,” said Sams, who is also the faculty coordinator for Mentored Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavors (MURACE) and Councilor and Campus Liaison for the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR).

Georgia College had three student presenters —juniors Madeline Drives and Amelia Dubose, both psychology majors, and senior Nick Palmer, physics major.

“UR experiences change students personally by increasing their confidence in their ability to conduct research to find meaningful answers or opportunities for new research, improves their presentation skills, enhances their critical thinking skills, and increases their self-efficacy and self-esteem,” said Sams.

Students say sharing their work with state leaders and getting positive feedback helped validate their work.

“Conferences like this are important for undergraduates because it highlights the potential broader impact their research could have,” said Palmer, whose research is titled "The Effect of a Solar-Hybrid Charging System on Electric Vehicle Range." “It's empowering for a researcher to be able to convey their work to a policy maker, especially if their work, or the work they plan to do, has an impact on society.” 

Dubose and Drivers’ research focuses on parental gender beliefs and attitudes involving child’s toy play. For them, this unique experience was different from other conferences where they had presented.

From left to right Nick Palmer, Dr. Hasitha Mahabaduge, Madeline Drives, Dr. Tsu-Ming Chiang and Amelia Dubose.

“This experience was really incredible,” said Dubose. “Political officials and state representatives came up to ask us about our research and showed genuine interest in what we’re doing, and that was so cool. The whole event was so special and intimate, which I very much enjoyed.”

“Having the opportunity to present our undergraduate research at the Georgia Capitol was a wonderful experience and one of my favorite that Georgia College and Dr. Chiang, my mentor, have provided me with,” said Drivers. “I have never been to the Capitol, so being able to present our research to the people who work in government there was a great experience. I hope that a lot of people have this opportunity in the future.” 

Legislators, government officials and guests at the Capitol remarked they were amazed undergraduate students from across the state were engaged in such impactful research projects.

“Many of the legislators I talked with were quite impressed with the quality of the research projects and the ability of the students presenting their work,” said Johnny Grant, director of economic development and external relations at Georgia College.

“Too often many folks think that university research is all carried out by highly paid Ph.D. professors and a select group of highly specialized graduate students. A project like the GURC Poster Day at the Capitol can help showcase the great work that is being done by undergraduates in a wide variety of research areas,” he said.

Instrumental in making Poster Day at the Capitol a reality, Grant connected coordinators with his contacts at the Capitol to reserve the space, assisted with distributing invitations to legislators and shared the event with government relations personnel at other universities.

Reviewers from the conference were from the GURC member schools. Abigail Quick, a GC student ambassador, served as an ambassador at the event. Holly Croft, archivist for the GC library, set up and managed Bepress for the event and served as a representative of the university.

"We are very appreciative of all the help that this event received from the Capitol building staff and government relations officials of the schools in attendance," said Lewis. "Without their assistance, this day could not have happened. We look forward to many more successful events."

Planning has already begun for next year’s Poster Day. Applications to present will be accepted this fall. For more information, visit https://www.gcsu.edu/murace/posters-state-capitol

From left to right: (back row) Robin Lewis, Abigail Quick GC student Ambassador, Holly Croft, Dr. Dee Sams and Nick Palmer. (front row) Madeline Drives, Amelia Dubose, Dr. Tsu-Ming Chiang, Madeline and Amelia's mentor, and Dr. Hasitha Mahabaduge, Nick's mentor.

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