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BWLI Students and Committee

MCLA to Hold Undergraduate Research Conference April 21, Harvard Grad Student Brendan Gaesser '07 to Deliver Keynote

04/14/2011

NORTH ADAMS, MA - Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) will hold its annual Undergraduate Research Conference (URC) on Thursday, April 21, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the MCLA campus, in Murdock Hall, 9:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. for the presentation of papers, and in Venable Gym 9-11 a.m. for the presentation of posters. 

The event, which recognizes students for their hard work and dedication for their academic projects in a variety of disciplines, is free and open to the public. 

This year's keynote speaker will be Brendan Gaesser '07, who will speak at 12:45 p.m. in the Amsler Campus Center gymnasium on "True Life: I'm a Researcher." Gaesser graduated with a degree in psychology from MCLA. He is pursuing a Ph.D. in psychology at Harvard University, specializing in cognitive neuroscience, and has conducted studies investigating the relationship between memory and imagination. His work includes identifying how those processes operate in healthy young and old adults, as well as in degenerative brain patients. 

"By understanding how memory enables imagination, I hope to better understand creativity, problem solving, diseases of imagination, and refine our ability to distinguish between genuine memories and fabricated events," Gaesser said.

His work has been published in a national journal, book chapters, and presented at international and national conferences.

According to Dr. David Langston, an English/communications professor at MCLA and the event's organizer, the Undergraduate Research Conference offers abundant testimony to the centrality of active student participation in liberal learning.   

"To participate in the conference, students design a research project in conversation with a faculty member and then proceed to carry forward the research, prepare a report on their findings, and then present those conclusions to the college community," Langston said. "These experiences not only prepare MCLA students for graduate school and career possibilities, but they deepen a student's understanding of key knowledge in their chosen field of study and motivate them to further intellectual exploration. They grow to appreciate both the satisfactions of knowledge in their field, but like any maturing scholar, they gain a new humility with added respect for what they have yet to learn." 

Approximately 200 students will participate in the all-day event. The conference has grown over the past eight years, as have opportunities for its student presenters as they present their research not only to their peers, but also at national conferences around the country.

The URC also will include special sessions and performances focused on specific topics and themes.  The day of the conference is dedicated to campus-wide intellectual engagement, and classes will not be held to enable everyone to participate.

For more information, go to www.mcla.edu/urc .