More than 268 of Stony Brook’s top undergraduate students participated in the annual Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (URECA) end of year symposium on April 24. This celebration, which has taken place each spring since 1999, allows students involved in supervised research to showcase their findings.
URECA itself was established in 1987. According to the program’s website, Stony Brook “was one of the first research universities in the country to establish an office for the specific purpose of promoting undergraduate research and creative activity, and offers many programs that support undergraduate research efforts. These include the Battelle Summer Research Program, the Beckman Scholars Program, Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Site Programs, Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Undergraduate Research Programs, and the URECA Summer Research and Small Grant/Travel Grant Programs.”
Karen Kernan, who has served as the director of URECA since 2001, has seen the end-of-year symposium grow in scope over time.
“In 2002, we had about 75 posters displayed in the SAC lobby, now we have 268 projects,” she said through an email message.
The bulk of the day’s events consisted of poster exhibits set up in SAC Ballroom A. Students who have conducted research in various fields, including mathematics, sociology, business and political science, create these posters to visually display their research findings. The student researchers are also on hand to answer questions from attendees.
One of the many exhibits on the day was created by Jesse Pogonik and Jake Muldoon, both of whom conducted organic chemistry research under the supervision of Professor Dale Drueckhammer of the Chemistry Department. Pogonik and Muldoon each worked in the undergraduate chemistry labs—they researched organic chemistry there too—and concurred that the experience broadened their horizons. “You learn to accept frustration, and you get to devise creative ways of tackling problems,” Muldoon said of the overall research experience.
Another display came from Amy Marshall, Kevin Ryan and Ben McKeeby. Their project, Sedimentation and its Effects on Chlorophyll A Production in High and Low Microbial Sponges, was conducted with the guidance of Bradley Peterson and Joseph Warren, both associate professors in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences. According to Ryan, the research for this project began when he and Marshall partook in a study abroad program in Jamaica. “It was quite interesting and given more time, we’d like to go back to continue our research,” he said.
Erin Kunz created a project, Immunohistochemical Analysis of MUSTIN I Expression during Fracture Healing, under the supervision of Professor David Komatsu of the Department of Orthopedics. Kunz’s research began when she contacted Komatsu after he guest lectured for one of her classes. On her overall experience, Kunz said: “Research is a lot of fun, and lets you get a hands-on learning experience and gets you interested in the future. It keeps you involved.”
In addition to the poster presentations, the Departments of History, English and Psychology hold their own symposiums to showcase oral research reports during the day. Regarding the origins of the History Department’s symposium, in an email message, Professor Emeritus Joel Rosenthal said: “I think it was when [Professor] Sara Lipton was either undergrad director or just involved with a lot of students that she said there was no reason why URECA should only be for science students.  This was probably a bit over 10 years ago, early 2000s I believe.”
Rosenthal said the symposium is open to students: “Everyone who does a [two]-semester History Honors paper is invited to read a short paper.  Other students in 400 level [classes] and perhaps in the odd 300 level [class] are asked, if they are doing research papers, whether they want to participate.”
This year, six students presented their papers in 15-minute windows, before answering related questions from a panel of History Department faculty members. One of the presenters was David Purificato, who developed his honors thesis, Canine reinvention: Nineteenth Century cultural attitudes and domestic dogs, with the guidance of Professor Jared Farmer. “It was a little dubious at first, but it turned out to be fun. I like talking about these topics,” said Purificato on his overall research experience.
Director Kernan believes that URECA is an important asset to the University.  In an email message she said: “I think that being involved with undergraduate research can be a transformative experience for many students. I’ve talked to a number of our top students over the years—who love being involved in discovering new things, who are excited by what they are doing, and also really value being part of their research lab [or] community, and having the chance to work with their grad student and faculty mentors. When students are interviewed after graduating, the research experience is one of the things most valued.”

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