Exploring Research in Public Policy

– written by Dalia Kaakour, Public Policy student

Research. Research. Research. Coming to UNC, I had been inundated with pamphlets urging me to explore my curiosities, and had spent hours trying to understand things like my older brother’s complicated research — it was something related to biophysics…I think. But despite my limited understanding of what “research” really meant, I was convinced that I would end up doing it, because frankly, it seemed like an important thing to do at a huge research institution like UNC.

Not long after arriving at, I found myself applying to labs, but without any real reason for why I wanted these positions. I realized that I wasn’t allowing my interests and passions to drive my research goals; I wasn’t searching with any direction or specific purpose.

After three years of reflection, exploration and, of course, a little luck, I’m happy to announce that I’ve finally found my niche in research. I reconciled my interests in the fields of public policy and medicine, independently designing and taking on a project examining “Physicians’ End-of-Life Healthcare Decision-Making,” as my Senior Honors Thesis. If you think the title sounds like a mouthful, just imagine explaining it to your friends and family!

Dalia at the 2015 Celebration of Undergraduate Research

Dalia at the 2015 Celebration of Undergraduate Research

The topic stems from my interest in healthcare spending. Not only do we as Americans spend way more than we have, but we undergo treatments and procedures that we don’t really even want. This is particularly pertinent to end-of-life care. The reality is that we spend an incredibly large amount of money on health care expenditures and often undergo unwanted treatments in the last days or weeks of our lives.

Not only does this put a strain on our finances as individuals, but it also puts pressure on our domestic healthcare system as a whole. Looking at this issue through the lens of doctors and what they would choose for their own end-of-life healthcare measures, I am examining the discordance between physicians and their patients. My hope is to draw conclusions as to what can be done to improve communication while still respecting patient desires and the authority of physicians, all the while retaining efficiency in end-of-life care.

Overall, my research project within the Department of Public Policy has been one of the highlights of my academic career. I went from an inexperienced undergraduate to a Principal Investigator — skipping over the Research Assistant step and everything else in between, which may not be the traditional way of doing things. However, everyone has a different path to reach their ends, and the best advice I can give is that it is never too late to find your passions, whether it is through research or elsewhere in life. I now finally understand what it means to “research” — not in its textbook definition, but more importantly in what it means to me as a student, and the continued role that I plan for it to have in my future career and life.

The Celebration of Undergraduate Research Best Poster Award

Written by Caleb Helms, OUR undergraduate assistant and Chemistry major

Before this year, I was unaware of the scale of the Celebration of Undergraduate Research. However, after experiencing it first hand, I now have a greater appreciation for the time and effort that undergraduate students put into research. On Wednesday, April 15, 2015, nearly 170 students gathered in the Great Hall of the Student Union to showcase their research in poster sessions and more than 40 students presented in neighboring panel sessions. From psychology, art, and sociology to mathematics, physics, and chemistry, all disciplines of research were well represented at the symposium. Watching so many students passionately present their research to students, parents, and faculty at the University was a unique experience. As I walked past group after group listening to descriptions of the research, I heard strings of intense words being spoken by the researchers. Words like “sclerochronological,” “ubiquitination,” and “Siderastrea siderea” that I had to look up to spell, and definitely remain unaware of their meaning. As a Chemistry major, I have continuously heard of the research opportunities available but never truly understood the level of rigor involved in undergraduate research. The immense amount of time invested by these students was evident in their presentations. It was amazing and inspiring to witness the commitment students had made to specific areas of research. I have carefully reviewed information that I know and none of my knowledge reaches the equivalent depth of these researchers. After experiencing the Celebration, I have an enriched appreciation for undergraduate research and the students who take part in it. I would recommend that students attend the Celebration of Undergraduate Research and view for themselves the sense of accomplishment achieved when students immerse themselves in a research project.

As an undergraduate assistant in the Office for Undergraduate Research, I was given the task of guiding a group of reviewers in selecting eight students to receive the “Best Poster Award.” The recipients of this award were decided based not only on the content of their research, but also the visual and oral presentation by the students. The graduate students and postdoctoral scholar judges worked hard to make it to each poster in the designated time limit. Each of the judges struggled to pull away from one poster and described the ‘immense detail’ or the ‘intriguing nature’ of the research that the students conducted. I thoroughly enjoyed having the opportunity to present the “Best Poster Award” winners with a ribbon for their accomplishments. Since only eight of the nearly one-hundred and seventy students received this recognition, the award was a huge accomplishment for the recipients.

The eight students recognized at the 2015 Celebration of Undergraduate Research with the “Best Poster Award” included:

• Courtney Shepard, Assessing the Sustainability of Impulse Social Enterprises
• Jonathan Garrick, A Late Holocene Sclerochronological Analysis
• Teresa Martz, Retinal Vessel Oxygenation in Diabetic Retinopathy
• Millicent Robinson, Superwoman Schema, Stigma, Spirituality, and Sensitive Providers
• Mary Ward, Exposing Students in Special Education to STEM
• Emily Davidson, Shifts in Aqueous Carbonate Chemistry
• Samuel Brotkin, Future Self-Continuity and Health Behavior
• Luma Essaid, Hepatocyte Growth Factors and Their Role in Breast Cancer

Along with the Office for Undergraduate Research, I would like to congratulate these students on their accomplishments and thank all the participants at the 2015 Celebration of Undergraduate Research.


“Best Poster Award” Winners from Session One. From left to right: Teresa Martz, Millicent Robinson, and Courtney Shepard. Not Pictured: Jonathan Garrick. Photo Credit: Dan Sears

“Best Poster Award” Winners from Session One. From left to right: Teresa Martz, Millicent Robinson, and Courtney Shepard. Not Pictured: Jonathan Garrick. Photo Credit: Dan Sears




Winners from the second session of the Celebration of Undergraduate Research. From left are, Samuel Brotkin, Luma Essaid, Emily Davidson, and Mary Ward.



“Best Poster Award” Winners from Session Two. From left to right: Samuel Brotkin, Luma Essaid, Emily Davidson, and Mary Ward. Photo Credit: Dan Sears



The Celebration of Undergraduate Research and Other Spring 2015 Events to Highlight Undergraduate Research

Here in the Office for Undergraduate Research we are busy gearing up for the annual Celebration of Undergraduate Research which will be held on Wednesday, April 15 from 1:00-3:15 p.m. as part of National Undergraduate Research Week.


We are fortunate to have additional events taking place on campus this spring that highlight undergraduate researchers at Carolina. Please join us at the Celebration and also take advantage of these other opportunities to support other students and learn about the wide range of research being conducted by Carolina undergrads.

Upcoming Events:

Biology Undergraduate Research Poster Session
Friday, April 17, 2015
2:00-5:00 p.m.
Genome Sciences Building, lower level lobby

BIOL 395 students in their second semester of research will present their findings. The posters will be displayed throughout the week of April 13-17.

Undergraduate Art Symposium
Wednesday, April 22, 2015 (tentative)

Details forthcoming

If your department or unit is hosting an undergraduate research conference, symposium or event, please let us know and we will be happy to include it on this list.

Completed Events:

Curriculum for the Environment and Ecology Student Research Symposium
Saturday, February 21, 2015
9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
North Carolina Botanical Garden

The 3rd annual CEE Student Research Symposium is designed to showcase many of the program’s students and their research accomplishments.  The symposium will incorporate oral and poster presentations from both graduate and undergraduate students over the course of the day.  In addition, the symposium will serve as a great networking vehicle for various members of CEE to meet and get to know one another. This event’s main goals are to provide student researchers the opportunity to present their research in a supportive environment and to foster relationships among members of the Curriculum, the University community, and the Research Triangle.​ You can review the program: CEE Symposium 2015.

McCain African and Diaspora Student Undergraduate Research Conference
Department of African, African American, and Diaspora Studies
March 20-21

The McCain African and Diaspora Student Undergraduate Research Conference presents undergraduate research projects on a variety of aspects of African, African American and Diaspora studies. The Dunbar-Stone lecture will kick off the conference on Friday, March 20; the keynote speaker is Cami Chavis. The conference will follow on Saturday, March 21 from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Read about this Conference here.

Biology Undergraduate Research Honors Symposium
Monday, March 23, 2015
All day in Coker 215

Biology senior honors thesis students present their research. Open to the public.

Department of Sociology Honors Research Presentations
Monday, March 23, 2015
3:30 PM
Hamilton 271

Sociology Honors students from Duke and UNC will be presenting their findings. Everyone is invited to attend.

OUR Announces the 2014 Celebration of Undergraduate Research Contest Winners!

The Celebration of Undergraduate Research Poster Session

The Celebration of Undergraduate Research Poster Session

The 15th annual Celebration of Undergraduate Research was held on April 14th. Students were able to share their research experiences through their posters and platform presentations. The celebration was completely interactive as there were floods of posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram with #UNCCUR14. It was surely an incredible event! Not only were remarkable and inspiring undergraduate research projects displayed for all attendants to view, they were also busy participating in one of our handful of lively contests to win prizes.

Sarah Bradford, Biology (Class of 2014), won the second annual Celebration of Undergraduate Research Bingo drawing! She will receive a prize pack filled with goodies, valued $200+ including tickets from PlayMakers Repertory Company. Sam Resnick, Biology and Chemistry (Class of 2015), won our second Media Challenge. He will receive $75+ including a $25 gift certificate to Fitzgerald’s–Chapel Hill.

During the Celebration of Undergraduate Research Symposium attendees voted for the most popular poster. The 2014 Poster Winners are: Christopher Rota, Biology and Economics (Class of 2014), Michael Parrish, Biology and Psychology (Class of 2015 ), and Elizabeth Sherling (Class of 2014) Exercise and Sport Science and Communication Studies. Winning posters will be displayed in the Undergraduate Library on a rotating basis throughout the 2014-2015 academic year.

The Celebration of Undergraduate Research Symposium, an annual event held in April, is co-sponsored by the Office for Undergraduate Research and the Roosevelt Institute. The symposium showcases and encourages meaningful research in all disciplines by undergraduates at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Sam Resnick, Michael Parrish, and Christopher Rota

Michael Parrish

Sam Resnick

Sam Resnick

Christopher Rota

Christopher Rota




Reading, Writing, and Undergraduate Research: Sustaining my College Education

Written by Dillon Crockett, a graduating senior and a Comparative Literature and Biology major

It is easy for me to proclaim that my experiences in research have defined my undergraduate education.

I am reminded of when Dr. Jan Koelb, one of my esteemed research advisors, expressed to me one day that “everything is education.” The all-encompassing quality of this claim initially gave me pause. How can everything be education? “That has to be an overstatement,” I thought privately at the time. However, several semesters later, not only do I now fully believe this to be true, but I even think this dictum could be modified to assert that “everything is research.” All of my experiences as an undergraduate have not only been educational, but they have also been engagements in research, formally and informally.

During my four years at Carolina, I took advantage of a wide variety of opportunities available for undergraduate research, a number of which are already advertised on the Office for Undergraduate Research website.

I took major-specific courses in research methodology: how do professionals in different disciplines go about doing what it is they do? For my comparative literature major, I took Dr. Rebecka Rutledge Fisher’s CMPL 251 course, an introduction in literary theory, and for my biology major, I took Dr. Pat Pukkila’s BIOL 211 course, an introduction to research in biology. In retrospect, I now see my experiences in each of these courses as being entirely indispensable to my undergraduate education in these two fields. Had I not explicitly explored the various approaches to reading and experiencing texts, or been specifically guided through the process of understanding experimental design and scientific literacy, I would see myself as severely lacking in my abilities to function within these disciplines. I cannot imagine myself being as satisfied with my education within these majors had I not been directly exposed to these discipline-specific research methodologies, and I am boundlessly grateful for these professors’ interests in developing and offering such curricula. Fortunately, similar courses exist in most undergraduate majors, either as their own courses within the bulletin or as special topics courses, and I imagine they would add depth of inquiry to any student’s program.

I also took research-exposure courses that were specifically structured around the generous and insightful assistance of Graduate Research Assistants (GRCs). These included Annah Lee, who served in Dr. Jan Koelb’s CMPL 260 course, Landscapes in Literature and the Arts, and Heath Sledge, who served in Dr. Donna Bickford’s ENGL 444 course, Contemporary American Women Writers. Although research is not a requirement to graduate in any particular major for undergraduates, research is a central requirement for graduate students to complete their programs. Because these skilled individuals—whose current interests lie in being thoroughly engaged in their own research—were inserted into my undergraduate courses, I received irreplaceable one-on-one guidance as I carried out my own research projects. Even more, it was my research from these two courses that I was able to present at the 2013 and 2014 Celebrations of Undergraduate Research, which the Office for Undergraduate Research hosts each spring. There is no rule stipulating that undergraduate research and graduate research are necessarily distinct from each other, or that student research must be inherently separate from faculty research. In fact, the mentorship of faculty and graduate students is important for undergraduate researchers, and the ideas of undergrads often enrich the projects of faculty and graduate students. Research is research, regardless of who is conducting it, where they are conducting it, or how they are conducting it. Collaboration is a mutually-beneficial practice essential to research on all scales and on all levels, and engaging in it early on, even through a course with a GRC, can be deeply enriching.

While these courses specifically included undergraduate research components, much actual research occurs outside of the classroom. I was chosen to participate in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute internship for Future Teachers,  which provides time and funding for undergraduates to conduct research projects over the summer. In this particular program, which is directed by the fabulous Dr. Jennifer Coble, students integrate professional research in biology with developing biology curricula at the high school and college level. The final step in the research process for any investigation—communicating your results—is the means by which any research can have broader impacts on the scholastic and public community. If you define research as the process by which an individual can expand the limits of human knowledge on a particular issue, then your research is only relevant when you devise a way to carry people through the new intellectual spaces you create. Developing curriculum modules, preparing an oral presentation, organizing a professional poster, or hosting a demonstration or performance are all valuable ways of conveying information to a broader audience.

Although there are benefits to engaging in such discipline-specific projects, I am not a staunch advocate for embedding oneself within the conventions of a single discipline. In fact I would advocate for the exact opposite; to do otherwise would be severely hypocritical considering the interdisciplinary project with which I have been working for the past year. Dr. Rachel Willis, a social scientist by training, is currently researching the effects of climate change—an (albeit, anthropogenic) natural phenomenon. She and I are not unlike in this way: I entered Carolina with the expressed purpose of majoring in a field on each side of the arts/sciences divide. Knowing that both the arts and the sciences are obligatory components of K-12 curricula, I thought each discipline must have some particularly useful skill set for me to pursue in my college education. Now that I am a graduating senior, I understand even better now how little difference there is in the methodology of these two disciplines. Sure, comparative literature and biology each ask somewhat different questions, and each goes about somewhat different means to answer those questions. However, each discipline does establish questions, study the extent to which other scholars have approached those questions, formulate hypotheses, generate a procedure to collect data, analyze their results and find a way to communicate their results to others. Indeed, I am sure that this is the intention behind the interdisciplinary design of OUR’s IDST 194 Modes of Inquiry course, and even the Celebration for Undergraduate Research, both drawing from the arts and humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences.

Another feature common among the disciplines is the helpfulness of research advisors. Yet while advisors are wonderful resources to have when conducting research projects, it is ultimately up to the individual researcher to develop their independence and their own sense of confidence in their research. Although an advisor is oftentimes capable of providing suggestions for further avenues of inquiry, there is no way that they can replace the sort of lessons and character traits that an undergraduate develops on their own through the process of conducting research. Confidence is one character trait that I found essential throughout my tenure as an undergraduate. Whether I was writing an application essay, or assisting with an experiment, or exploring my own thoughts on an issue—confidence was necessary. Whether I was writing a paper (especially one not required for a course), or asking for feedback and criticism, or standing in front of complete strangers while trying to convince them that my interests and ideas are worthwhile—confidence was required. Even taking my first solo out-of-state journeys this semester to conferences in Virginia, Pittsburgh, and Ohio required confidence that I would otherwise have had no need or opportunity to develop without my undergraduate research experiences.

This characterization of research as a prime opportunity to develop confidence and independence as an undergraduate is closely tied to an understanding of research as a learning strategy. One of the theorists that Dr. Jill Hamm introduces in her EDUC 532 course on adolescent development is Lev Vygotsky, whose theory of proximal development claims that students are only capable of constructing new knowledge if they are provided instructional scaffolding for support as they build upon the knowledge they already have. Although this course is part of a teacher-preparation program, which may not seem research-intensive, it includes field-based research components, such as conducting interviews with teachers and making observations of area classrooms. These assignments were created to allow undergraduates to apply course content to the knowledge they construct for themselves as they complete those assignments, a kind of engaged learning. Any undergraduate beginning their own research project follows a similar pattern: you begin with the knowledge you already have, then you decide upon some question of interest, and then you go about answering that question. Considering Vygotsky’s constructivist view of education, undergraduate research is a fundamentally more effective pedagogy since it leverages prior understandings, abilities, and experiences for students.

Given this understanding of scaffolding, I now realize that I did not procure this confidence out of thin air. I found myself in a very difficult environment during my first semester at Carolina, one that was challenging both academically and socially, and I doubt that my experience was too unique from many of my peers. As first generation college student and a Carolina Covenant scholar, I had certain disadvantages that some other students did not have, but I also had a number of advantages that helped me tremendously. I received unfailing support from several of my professors during that semester, especially Dr. Jim O’Hara, whose help ensured that I remained a Carolina student. Since that unfortunate term, I have more than doubled my first-semester GPA and presented seven different conference papers. Neither of these feats would have been possible without the help of Carolina faculty, who are committed to assisting me in finding opportunities to become interested and involved in undergraduate research. It was not only because I spent hours scouring bibliographies in Davis or the archives in Wilson that my performance and my affect improved; it was the fact that I had established personal, relevant connections between my own interests and those of others—faculty members, fellow undergraduates, graduate students—and not just at Carolina, but at other institutions as well—even Duke (for better or for worse). For the current or future undergraduate researcher, know that despite them seeming intimidating and out-of-reach… conferences are particularly useful for making these connections and for making personal growth in your research.

Of course the avenues of undergraduate research that I have traveled are merely a sampling of the possible routes. Many students conduct senior honors theses, for example, as means of gaining professional research experience. Due to having a GPA below the minimum requirement, and due to having committed my last spring semester to student teaching, I did not complete a senior honors thesis myself. It was unfortunate that certain missteps and choices closed this door for me, but even though that particular means of undergraduate research has certain prerequisite requirements, there is fortunately no minimum GPA for conducting undergraduate research in any of the above paths that I did explore. One closed door does not mean all doors are closed. There is no one in the world with the power to tell you that your interest or your question is a project reserved for seniors with particular GPAs, or for graduate students, or for faculty members. I was able to forge my own path though the boundless world of research opportunities (with the guidance and help of all those mentors cited above, and several more) to find myself leaving Carolina with a bounty of extraordinary experiences. I am extremely fortunate to have found myself in such a positive environment here, which supports undergraduate engagement in research.

Above all, I have learned that failure is okay, and even necessary. Whether you fail an exam or maybe even a class, or whether you take a direction on a project that leads you into a counter-productive rabbit hole, the central purpose of being at an institution like Carolina is to educate yourself. If you fail introductory physics during your first semester of college, that is okay. You may not know much about rotational inertia—yet!—but you should know how to grow from that misstep. Re-take that class. Re-write that paper. Re-do that experiment. Take another look at that problem. Fix your mistakes, and do better. Learn. If I were to speak to an incoming first year student in my former position, I would say that you should know never to give up on yourself or on whatever you find most enjoyable. You should know that if you see yourself doing something, you should clear the path for yourself to do it, without question. You should know that asking is never as painful as remaining uninvolved. Research exists only because people ask questions. If you do not ask that professor to participate in their research now, you never will. Be thankful for the resources that are available to you, and take advantage of them. Know that what matters most is your own education, and it is up to you to take an active role in constructing it.

I took advantage of lots of opportunities here at Carolina. One I missed was enrolling in a class with Dr. Sharon James but, in a brief meeting I had with her one afternoon several semesters ago, I received the best advice I have ever received at Carolina. “Do what you want.” Nothing has reverberated within the decision-making space of my mind as greatly as those four words. Do what you want. Whatever you think your path at Carolina will be, I believe, whether you know it yet or not, what you really want to do is research.

One Lesser Known Gem of the Undergraduate Library (UL)

written by Mollie McNeil          –edited by Daijha J. Copeland

The Undergraduate Libray

The Undergraduate Libray

If you have ever spent time wandering around the UL looking for a free table or just stretching your legs, you may have come across the second floor display case. The display case, erected to not only separate study space, it also houses undergraduate research projects from UNC-Chapel Hill undergrads. I know what you’re thinking: “I have too much work to do to spend time at a display case!!!” However, the projects featured in this case are hand-picked and the display can give you valuable insight to undergraduate research.

Each year at the Celebration of Undergraduate Research, students present their research to the UNC- Chapel Hill community. For undergraduates, this celebration is a great time to publicize and share their research, whether in a talk or poster format.  At the end of the symposium attendees vote on the best poster, taking into account both professional and artistic appeal.The winning posters are then put on display for one month each for the upcoming academic year. These projects are not only hand-picked for their widespread appeal; they provide a wide-ranging illustration of the endless possibilities of undergraduate research.

The Celebration for Undergraduate Research Poster Winner Display Case

The Celebration for Undergraduate Research Poster Winner Display Case

These project displays, which are sponsored by the Office for Undergraduate Research, can help you find inspiration to conduct your own research. The posters come from a variety of disciplines and are a true testament to the multitudinal nature of undergraduate research. On top of that, each research poster is accompanied by short student bio and reflection about their research experience.  These reflections give insight to the research process and describe the long-term benefits that undergrads have received from research. The current poster on display is Sherifat Ademola, a Psychology major from the class of 2014.

If you want to see what your peers are doing in research, learn more about the process, or be productive while taking a study break, check out these displays. Further, If you would like to see a wider range of current projects, consider attending the 15th annual Celebration of Undergraduate Research, Monday, April 14, from 1-3:15pm, at Franklin Porter Graham Student Union, Great Hall.


The Celebration of Undergraduate Research and The Social Media Challenge

Here in the Office for Undergraduate Research we are busy gearing up for the annual Celebration of Undergraduate Research Symposium which will be held on Monday, April 14th to kick off National Undergraduate Research Week (April 14th – 18th).

UNC joins the nation in recognizing the impact and importance of undergraduate research! In honor of this week, The Office for Undergraduate Research is hosting a social media Challenge! This is a five day “challenge” leading up to the Celebration of Undergraduate Research Symposium. Each day, we hope to challenge you by asking daily Carolina Trivia Questions on our Facebook page and our Twitter page. Once you are warmed up to the challenge an additional objective will be presented via social media outlets, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, to further push you.  To participate in this challenge and have the chance to win an awesome prize pack, just complete the daily objectives:


all 3

The Carolina Trivia Question of the Day will be posted on BOTH Facebook and Twitter. There will be a total of five Trivia questions over the course of the week (Monday, April 7th – Friday, April 11th).  Message us your answers directly on Facebook OR Twitter by 5:00 pm each day.

Day 1 (Monday, April 7th):

  • Answer our Carolina Trivia Question of the Day

Day 2 (Tuesday, April 18th):

  • Answer our Carolina Trivia Question of the Day

Day 3 (Wednesday, April 9th):

  • Facebook Objective: Check into our Facebook event
  • Answer our Carolina Trivia Question of the Day

Day 4 (Thursday, April 10th):

  • Twitter Objective: Tweet about undergraduate research or the upcoming celebration with #UNCCUR14
  • Answer our Carolina Trivia Question of the Day

Day 5 (Friday, April 11th):

  • Instagram Objective: This year marks the Silver anniversary for the Celebration of Undergraduate Research.Instagram a picture incorporating something silver at UNC or incorporating the UNC crest with #UNCCUR14.
  • Answer our Carolina Trivia Question of the Day

 (Monday, April 14th): The Celebration of Undergraduate Research Symposium

  1. Check in on Facebook
  2. Live tweet the event with #UNCCUR14
  3. Submit pictures via Instagram with #UNCCUR14

The individual who participates the most during this social media adventure by answering as many trivia questions correctly and posting on the various social media outlets will receive a prize package valued at $50 or more!!!

***All are welcome to participate in the social media challenge. ONLY UNC undergraduate students are eligible to win the prize package***

Posters, Posters, Posters

On March 24, 2014, in preparation for the Celebration of Undergraduate Research, the Office for Undergraduate Research hosted a workshop on How to Create an Effective Poster. The workshop presenter was Tom Swasey, the Director of Publications & Graphic Services at the Carolina Population Center (CPC); Tom’s colleague, Denise Ammons, Graphics & Publications Specialist, was also present to provide feedback and advice.

The CPC has been extremely generous in putting numerous poster resources on-line. The CPC Posters website includes sample poster templates, tips on poster design, links to public domain images, and a Prezi w/voiceover of the presentation we were lucky enough to hear in person.

Tom noted that good content is crucial, but it is the visual appeal and flow of your poster that helps tell the story of that research effectively. He recommends using a white background for your poster – it’s easier to read and easier to print. Tom emphasized that one of the most common mistakes people make in creating their poster is adding too much text; white space, he said, is good. When you use graphics on your poster, make sure you include enough context for viewers to understand what the graphic means.

Tom Swasey at the poster workshop. Photo by Denise Ammons.

Tom Swasey at the OUR poster workshop. Photo by Denise Ammons.

Also, spend some time thinking about what you will say when you’re talking about your project at the poster session. How well can you explain the project verbally? OUR’s founding director, Dr. Patricia Pukkila, recommends that poster presenters practice the “One Minute Wow.” What is a compelling aspect of your research you can share quickly that will entice people browsing the poster session to stop and learn more about your project?

Sometimes students ask how to get their poster printed. Although we cannot recommend specific vendors, many students use Student Stores Print Stop. Other students have used PhD Posters, an on-line service with delivery to the Health Services Library. Poster size for the OUR Celebration is limited to 4’ x 3’.

If you’re doing an oral presentation at a platform session for the Celebration, join us on Wednesday, April 2, 2014, from 4:00-5:30 p.m. in the Frank Porter Graham Student Union Room 3102 where you’ll hear from OUR Liaisons for Undergraduate Research Dr. Hilary Lithgow and Dr. Jenny Hayden about How to Give an Effective Presentation.

The Celebration of Undergraduate Research is an annual research symposium for UNC undergrads held in the Frank Porter Graham Student Union. Student present posters and deliver talks in concurrent poster and platform sessions. The Celebration is sponsored by the Office for Undergraduate Research and co-sponsored by The Roosevelt Institute. The goal of the Celebration is to showcase and encourage meaningful research in all disciplines by undergraduates at the UNC-Chapel Hill. Plan to attend the Fifteenth Annual Celebration of Undergraduate Research at UNC-Chapel Hill on Monday, April 14, 2014, from 1:00-3:15 pm at the Frank Porter Graham Student Union. An award ceremony follows in FPG Room 3206.

Writing with a Lens

written by Caroline Kirby (Class of 2012: Honors in Comparative Literature and a major in French)

I am coming of age in a time when image and sound are replacing the written word in many forms of communication. Even significant life events are flashed on Instagram before they are summarized on Facebook, or, in an even more archaic form, detailed via e-mail. As a Comparative Literature major, research became the outlet for me to both rediscover the written word and translate it into today’s audio-visual language.


Statue of Madame la République
location for one of the 17 October protests

Dr. Inger Brodey’s Comparative Literature 250 course challenged me to interpret literary works of art through disciplines such as music, art and film. Just as Romantic poets rewrote Classical epics in the context of their experiences, so contemporary filmmakers rewrite novels and short-stories through the lens of a camera. We studied how syntactical elements in prose, such as punctuation and sentence structure, can be communicated through audiovisual media.

The next semester, I discovered in Dr. Valerie Pruvost’s French 310 course a topic ahead of its time, captured not through text but through image and sound. According to Benjamin Stora’s La gangrene et l’oubli (La Découverte, 2005), trans. Gangrene and Oblivion, the French-Algerian War (1954-1962) remains largely undocumented in contemporary French history. As I discovered more about this “guerre sans nom” (war without a name), I came to understand these events were not recorded on pages but on the streets of Paris and Algiers, captured only by rare photographs (see Elie Kagan’s) and oral histories (Leila Sebbar’s La Seine Était Rouge (Thierry Magnier, 2003), trans. The Seine Was Red).

A Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship provided me with the resources to continue the work of historians Jean-Luc Einaudi and Benjamin Stora in filling in the blanks of history books surrounding the French-Algerian War. I took particular interest in the traumatic events of October 17, 1961 in Paris, France. On that night, thousands of anti-war protestors left their homes to march peacefully through the streets, yet hundreds were never seen again. On the eve of its 50th anniversary, historians, writers and activists were calling the French government to acknowledge the Paris Massacre, and I was among them.


Insignia of the French Republic
outside a prison where some of the protesters were detained

Informed by the work of Einaudi and Stora, I traveled to sites in Paris where violence had occurred on the night of October 17, 1961. I was largely unimpressed. These train stations, statues and cafés seemed shrouded in the prosaic din of vehicles and passer-bys, none of whom slowed to take notice. I yearned to honor those whose lives were lost there, communicating their stories in the audio-visual language of my time. I returned to Chapel Hill with hundreds of photographs and hours of footage, and, with FinalCutPro and my narrative voice, began to write the story of the Paris Massacre.

The following academic year, I had the opportunity to present my work at Virginia Tech University’s ACC Meeting of the Minds Conference and at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Celebration of Undergraduate Research Symposium.  I was thrilled to continue my discovery of unwritten francophone histories through a Fulbright Research Grant to Geneva, Switzerland following graduation. Image and sound have become my way of writing, and the lens has become my pen. I am grateful for those professors who taught me the languages of literature, film, French and Arabic, and for those mentors who gave me the confidence to write in my own.


Spring 2014 Undergraduate Research Events

Here in the Office for Undergraduate Research we are busy gearing up for the annual Celebration of Undergraduate Research symposium which will be held on Monday, April 14 as part of National Undergraduate Research Week.

We are fortunate to have additional events taking place on campus this spring that highlight undergraduate researchers at Carolina. Please join us at the Celebration and also take advantage of these other opportunities to support student researchers and learn about the wide range of research being conducted by Carolina undergrads.

Upcoming Events:

Biology Poster Session
Wednesday, April 2, 2014
12:00 – 1:00 p.m.
Lower Level Lobby, Genome Sciences Building

Please join the Biology Department as its commendation students present their research. Learn more about undergraduate research in Biology here and go here to see some publications from Biology undergraduates.

The Second Global Africana Annual Conference
Water, Health and Environment: Experiences from African, African American and Diaspora Geographies
April 3-5, 2014

The Second Global Africana Annual Conference includes several student research panels, as well as a keynote address by Dr. Arturo Escobar. For more information, contact Travis Gore.

Undergraduate Research Honors Symposium in Biology
Friday, April 4, 2014
8:30 a.m. – 4:45 p.m.
Room 215, Coker Hall

Join us for research posters and talks presented by candidates for Biology Honors degrees, who must present and defend their thesis research during the John K. Koeppe Biology Undergraduate Research Symposium. Learn more about undergraduate research here and go here to see some publications from our undergrad students. For more information, contact Summer Montgomery.

12th Annual Anadarko Student Research Symposium
Thursday, April 17, 2014
9 am – 4 pm.
The Friday Center

Join the Department of Geological Sciences for talks and poster presentations by undergraduate and graduate students.

Imagining the Civil War
Thursday, April 24, 2014
5:00-6:30 p.m.
Wilson Library, Melba Remig Saltarelli Exhibit Room

Join Dr. Eliza Richards and the students from ENGL444 who have created and curated this major exhibition of Civil War literature. The students will be providing a gallery tour of the exhibit.

Asian Studies Senior Honors Colloquium
Thursday, April 24, 2013
6:00 – 9:00 p.m.
New West 219

Our hardest-working soon-to-be graduates will present at our annual Senior Honors Colloquium. These brief but fascinating glimpses into their honors research will be a lot of fun.  Don’t miss it. For more information, contact Dr. Nadia Yaqub.

Completed Events:

The UNC Curriculum for the Environment and Ecology presents:
Annual CEE Student Research Symposium
Saturday, February 22, 2014
9:00 AM-2:00 PM
North Carolina Botanical Garden-Reeves Auditorium

The 2nd annual CEE Student Research Symposium will be held Saturday, Feb 22, 2014, at the North Carolina Botanical Garden. This student-run event will consist of a series of student lectures on research topics in addition to question and answer sessions. The Symposium will likewise feature a poster hall to showcase the many student researchers with work involving ecological or environmental questions.

McCain African and Diaspora Student Undergraduate Research Conference
February 28 and March 1
Graham Memorial Room 039

The inaugural McCain African and Diaspora Student Undergraduate Research Conference presents undergraduate research projects on a variety of aspects of African, African American and Diaspora studies. The keynote speaker, UNC alum Herman Bennett, will present the Dunbar/Stone Lecture on Race, Sex & Freedom in Early-Modern Latin America. Space is limited, so if you are interested in attending, please contact Dr. Tim McMillan.

University Research Day
March 4, 2014
9:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Great Hall, FPG Student Union

University Research Day provides a venue for students, faculty, and staff from all disciplines to share their research with the campus community. The event is organized and sponsored by the Graduate and Professional Student Federation and has two major objectives: 1) to give presenters an opportunity to make their research relevant to a non-specialized audience, and 2) to encourage undergraduate students to become involved in university research efforts. Poster and paper sessions are offered for the humanities; social sciences; biological & health sciences; computer, mathematical, and physical sciences; and a new division: nano and translational medicine. All presenters are invited to a luncheon celebrating their contributions to the University’s academic climate and an awards reception at the conclusion of the event.

Spotlight on Student Research Poster Event
Gillings Global School of Public Health
Friday, March 21, 2014
2:00-3:00 p.m.
MHRC Upper Atricum

Research in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health is an essential part of the teaching mission. Virtually all SPH research teams include both faculty and students, giving students the opportunity to work on real world problems in which they can apply the approaches that they have learned in the classroom. Join us and learn about the exciting research in which our students are engaged.

PIT Journal Conference

The People, Ideas, and Things (PIT) Journal hosts an annual university-wide undergraduate research conference. The Spring 2014 PIT Conference will take place on March 28th in the Student Union building.

If your department or unit is hosting an event that highlights undergraduate researchers, please let us know and we’ll update the list.