Undergraduate science, artistry to be celebrated at Colorado State University’s 17th annual research symposium April 19

Studies show undergraduate students are more likely to stay in school if they’re engaged in campus activities such as laboratory research, so you’ll have to excuse Mark Brown if he’s a little excited about the upcoming 2011 Celebrate Undergraduate Research and Creativity Showcase.

When Brown started as director of The Institute for Learning and Teaching Office of Undergraduate Research and Artistry in 2009, a record 86 students had signed up for the showcase. This year, on April 19, more than 400 students will present their research at the 17th annual symposium in the Main Ballroom of the Lory Student Center. This event has survived and thrived through the years thanks to efforts by dedicated CSU faculty such as Nancy Levinger.

Brown’s office also has created a new Journal for Undergraduate Research, which may be the first entirely peer-reviewed undergraduate journal in the nation. A special edition has been published for the symposium with blurbs on student presentations.

Expect this year’s event to be packed with gawkers including faculty, students, and maybe even a state legislator or two. The symposium is sponsored by the Office of the Provost, the Office of Undergraduate Research and Artistry, and the College of Natural Sciences.

“We had to buy 78 new easels and poster frames,” Brown said. “We’ve grown beyond our capacity.”

Brown estimates almost 3,000 CSU undergraduate students participate in some aspect of research or artistry. His office isn’t just focused on scientific laboratory experiences – the idea is to give any student on campus an outlet for showcasing their research whether it’s in fashion design or forestry.

Most students attending the symposium this month are from CSU in Fort Collins, but the symposium also will feature work of students from CSU-Pueblo and the University of Wisconsin. Students who participate in one of 23 formal programs offered through the Office of Undergraduate Research and Artistry are required to attend.

Undergraduates from the university’s Department of Music will perform at the entrance to the LSC Main Ballroom for the event. An awards ceremony on Thursday, April 21, will feature a keynote speech by former Gov. Bill Ritter, now at CSU as the director of the Center for the New Energy Economy and senior scholar in the School of Global Environmental Sustainability.

Students who win highest honors are invited to take their research to the state Capitol in February as part of the university’s celebration of Founder’s Day.

Ultimately, Brown envisions creating a full-fledged center in old theater offices in Johnson Hall where members of the community and industry partners could witness students working on their craft, either in scientific laboratories or art studios.