JACKSON, Tenn. – May 5, 2010 – Last summer, Union chemistry major Lindsay Flynn put her skills to work in a research lab at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. Flynn worked in a research lab on a project seeking to discover a cure for adrenal cancer.
“I went to St. Jude, and I went to a lab where they’ve been working on this project for years,” Flynn said. “So I was thrown into a situation where I knew nothing. So it teaches you how to go through, look and find information you need, and to come up with hypotheses of how you’re going to attack the problem.”
On May 4, Flynn was one of about 130 Union students who presented their research findings at the annual Scholarship Symposium, an event that provides students with the opportunity to work with a faculty mentor on a research project. About 70 faculty members participated with students in this year’s symposium.
Presentations ranged from the display of posters in the Carl Grant Events Center, to written presentations, to oral presentations. Though the event wasn’t the first time for Flynn to present her research, as chemistry majors do that all year long at different conferences and meetings, the Scholarship Symposium was especially meaningful to her.
“Everywhere else we’ve been with people we don’t know,” said Flynn, a senior from Jackson. “Here it’s all of our faculty and staff, and students and friends and peers who have heard us talking about it the whole time. It’s much more supportive and friend-and-family based.”
The university’s Undergraduate Research Program sponsors the event. Presentations are open to undergraduate and graduate students who have completed a collaborative, innovative scholarly project during the current academic year.
“The Scholarship Symposium is a stage or a platform for us to feature the scholarship of our students and also that scholarship is really a collaborative experience between student and faculty adviser,” said Randall Phillips, director of undergraduate and graduate research at Union.
Phillips said the symposium promotes “the crafting and pursuit of original work, and learning how to take the abstract and turn it into application. I think the benefit, too, is to get feedback from their peers and from faculty.”
The quality of the students’ work, Phillips said, is increasingly sophisticated. “This is really some major league work,” he said.
Bradley Kiddie, a senior engineering major from Goodspring, Tenn., worked on a project with Union students Aaron Porterfield and Eric Olson looking at pressure loss and heat loss in various types of piping. They researched which kinds of material lose the most pressure, depending upon the type of fluid being pumped.
“If you have a very large pipe diameter, it’s not going to be a major issue,” Kiddie said. “But for small pipes, such as something in a house, there you are going to see pressure loss the further the pipe is away from the pump. What material you choose is going to impact how much pressure you’re going to lose in your system.”
Porterfield, of Gretna, Va., said the project provided a valuable research experience. “We had to look up all the coefficients for each of the materials and for the substances,” he said. “We also had to go through a book to find the formulas and know how to use them, and know what they do.”
Olson said the practice of giving a professional presentation on their research was also helpful, as was “trying to come up with data that was clear to the layman and could be easily summarized” and taking something complicated and simplifying it for the audience.
Union political science professor Sean Evans said collaborating with a faculty member on a research project is beneficial for both students and faculty.
“Students get to participate in a research project and see what real research is like, while the faculty member works with a bright student as an assistant,” Evans said. “Our students worked with us each step of the way from developing hypothesis to developing questions for the survey to administering the survey and examining the results.”
Symposium presentations covered a wide range of academic disciplines, such as art, biology, Christian studies, digital media studies, English, political science and social work, among others.