Physics major and professor spotlighted at national conference for undergraduate research

Physics major and professor spotlighted at national conference for undergraduate research

Senior physics major Catherine Boyd and Dr. Hasitha Mahabaduge, assistant professor of physics, were interviewed this week as featured guests during the closing plenary at the national conference for undergraduate research.

The National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) hosted the three-day conference—the largest of its kind in the world, bringing together nearly 4,000 undergraduate students from all fields and disciplines. This year, the conference was held in a virtual format, called “NCUR 2021 @Home.” Each day, the conference ended with wrap-up sessions. To be singled out for this was a huge honor, especially on the first night of the conference.

Dr. Eric Tenbus, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, congratulated Boyd and Mahabaduge for their “well-received” presentation Monday night.

“It is collaborations such as this that have allowed Georgia College to become a leader in undergraduate research,” he said.

Georgia College was singled out because of its recent win of AURA, a campus-wide award for excellence in undergraduate research from the state’s Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR). The award “recognizes institutions with exemplary programs that provide high-quality research experiences for undergraduates,” according to the CUR website.

Dr. Doreen Sams, faculty coordinator for Georgia College’s MURACE (Mentored Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavors) nominated Boyd and Mahabaduge in particular, because “they are the very best, and they embody what mentored undergraduate research looks like at GCSU.”

Boyd’s part of Mahabaduge’s condensed matter research group. She's worked on Monte Carlo simulation of magnetron sputtering, a Solar Cell Capacitance Simulator (SCAPS) project and development of Mahabaduge’s popular solar golf carts.

Boyd and Mahabaduge were interviewed during a 30-minute discussion. When asked about the AURA award, Boyd said, “As a student, it is very encouraging. Georgia College is a smaller university and it was a concern coming in as a freshman that I may not have the opportunity to do research, because the department is small. But it was the total opposite. Professors reach out if you are interested. They encourage you to do research and go to conferences. They are eager to help you. The support of professors is a main component to our success as students.”

Having attended NCUR conferences since freshman year, Boyd said she’s encouraged and inspired to see presentations in other fields by students nationwide. Conferences are a good opportunity to make connections, she said.

"I am so proud to have been able to represent Georgia College in the day-one wrap-up at NCUR,” Boyd said. “Georgia College is a wonderful school and definitely deserves this AURA award! Go Bobcats!”

Dr. Costas Spirou, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, thanked the student-faculty team for their “impressive work representing Georgia College on this national NCUR panel.”

“Your efforts greatly contribute to advancing our institution,” he said.

Dr. Jordan Cofer associate provost for Transformative Learning Experiences echoed that sentiment: “Dr. Mahabaduge and Ms. Boyd did such an amazing job on the main stage of NCUR. It was great to see GC spotlighted.”

In turn, Mahabaduge thanked Spirou and Cofer for “their leadership” and for “creating opportunities for faculty and students.”

“It was “a great honor,” he said, “to represent Georgia College and, most importantly, share the stage with my student, Catherine.”

You can watch a video of NCUR’s day-one wrap up here.

Updated: 2021-04-14
Cindy Odonnell
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