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Scholarly Pursuits

A record 193 undergrads will present their works at this year’s CURCE conference

A student researcher explains her work to another student at a recent Undergraduate Conference held in the Lecture Center Concourse. (Photo by Paul Miller)

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 30, 2019) — Sophomore Joshua Martin has been doing research pretty much since he arrived on campus, under Physics Assistant Professor Matthew Szydagis. On Friday, he’ll be presenting some of that work at the Undergraduate Conference hosted by CURCE.

CURCE — the Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Engagement — hosts a conference each spring semester, where students can present their research, scholarly and creative projects. In honor of the University’s 175th anniversary this year, CURCE hoped to get 175 students to show their work.

They exceeded that goal. From 3 to 6 p.m. Friday, some 193 students will be presenting throughout the Lecture Center Concourse and in several LC classrooms.

“The Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Engagement was established to support students as they explore research, scholarship and creative activities across campus,” said Interim Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education JoAnne Malatesta.

“CURCE seeks to provide opportunities for students to present their research and engage with faculty and the campus community. We are thrilled that so many students have chosen to participate in this conference and we look forward to learning more about their research as they share their experiences, projects and results with the UAlbany community.”

Martin, a physics major from Schoharie County and a member of the Honors College, will be presenting an overview on the “snowball chamber,” work the Szydagis lab is doing on supercooling ultra-pure water to detect dark matter.

“Supercooling is the process of taking water below 0 degrees Celsius without letting it freeze,” Martin explained. “This can happen because in order for water to freeze, it needs a disturbance (an impurity, crack in the container, vibration etc.) and now we have discovered that neutrons can also freeze supercooled water.”

Detecting neutrons could be a step toward detecting dark matter, he said.

Martin received a CURCE accelerator grant, which he used to purchase needed lab materials, including lab-grade ethanol and new thermocouples.

English major Emily Aucompaugh will be presenting a literature project: “To Speak Ghosts and See Echoes: Longing in Lolita.”

Aucompaugh, who lives in Pattersonville, says her work focuses on “how the feeling of longing functions in literature based off of a description divorced from an image, thus interiorized through language.”

She is one of nine recipients of the Situation Prize for Research, based on her essay. She values the opportunity to present her work because she believes that research is about discourse.

“I think it’s important to have an opportunity to pursue a research topic in which you have a genuine interest and passion,” she said. “Presenting research gives students an opportunity to share their work with other students who also have a passion, and get valuable feedback and criticism.”

Freshman chemistry major Niara Nichols is presenting some of the work she is doing in Professor Igor Lednev’s forensic chemistry lab. Her project, “Identification of Bloodstains for Forensic Purposes using Raman Spectroscopy: Model Validation for Donors Suffered with Celiac Disease,” tests whether Celiac disease can be detected in peripheral blood stains and other body fluids.

Nichols, from Nyack, is a criminal justice minor and has been working in Lednev’s lab since last summer — before she even started at UAlbany.

Research is important, she said, because “you gain a greater understanding of your field, learn from other knowledgeable people, and learn how to ask the right questions, problem solve, and convey ideas. As for presenting your work, it teaches you important communication skills that can be used in nearly every aspect in life. It also allows you to share your perspective on your project, which opens up the floor for others to be inspired or make suggestions you can consider.”

You can see Nichols, Aucompaugh and Martin’s work — and that of 190 other students — Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. all around the Lecture Center. There will be refreshments available, including an ice cream sundae bar that opens at 5:30 p.m. For more information, visit CURCE.

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