MCLA research conference a success


North Adams Transcript (MA)
Author: William Shannon

NORTH ADAMS - A firstever regional research conference hosted by Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts on Saturday gave students a chance to showcase some of their in-depth work and to share ideas with students and faculty from five other institutions.

The gathering, officially known as the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC) Northeast Regional Undergraduate Research Conference, featured presentations from students at MCLA, Keene State College, Ramapo College, Eastern Connecticut State University, University of Maine-Farmington and SUNY Geneseo.

MCLA officials grouped the presentations, given in Murdock Hall throughout the day, into three different categories: human-ities, social sciences and natural sciences.

"What you're looking at here is the best of the best across the Northeast," said MCLA English professor David Langston, who organized the conference. "The intellectual work here is top drawer."

Langston said each college was limited to sending 12 student representatives, making the event a concentration of very serious student researchers.

"They're working at the frontier of knowledge," he said. "And this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of undergraduate research." D! uring a poster-board session, Amy Curran, a senior at Keene State who grew up in the town of Keene, presented her research of the lobster fishing industry off the coast of Maine and how it is affecting the population of right whales.

The concern of whales getting tangled in lobster traps has driven her team to collect detailed data from the fishermen, she said. The overall goal of the ongoing project, started in 1998, is to extend risk assessments down the entire Atlantic Coast.

Curran is paid to work on the project through a grant. Although the fishermen and researchers often butt heads, she said, she loves her work and enjoyed the opportunity to showcase it Saturday.

"It's been fun to meet other undergrads who have the focus and drive for research," she said.

Roya Amirniroumand, a Ramapo College junior from Saddle River, N.J., agreed the conference was a good way to meet and network with other students.

"It's nice getting away from Ramapo for! a bit to see what all these other students can offer," she sa! id.

Amirniroumand reported on the findings of a study she worked on testing 2-year-olds, 5-year-olds and adults on their behavior when asked to fit a wooden block, as well as their hand, through different size holes.

"We're interested in why children think the way they do about their bodies, and why babies will sometimes try to fit through things way too small for them," she said.

At a continental breakfast before the presentations began, Mary Grant, president of MCLA welcomed students.

"This began as a little seed planted by some faculty and students a few years ago, and watching it grow has been an absolute pleasure," she said.

MCLA has made a commitment to incorporate undergraduate research as a big part of what its does, Grant said.

"The students I see at your colleges and this college are the best and brightest in the world," she said. "This is setting you on such a rich path for the future."

Visiting students and faculty, who were invi! ted to attend a student art exhibit downtown and a welcome dinner on Friday, had positive things to say about MCLA's organization of the conference.

"They've been very accommodating," said Curtis Guild, a chem-istry major at Keene State, who presented his work cataloguing the physical aspects of molecules. He said the conference allowed him "to put a finger on the pulse of how undergraduate research in the Northeast is operating right now."

"The students did a great job and MCLA did a great job organizing it - and we've enjoyed being in North Adams," said Gordon Leversee, a COPLAC organizer and dean of the school of sciences and social sciences at Keene State.


(c) 2010 North Adams Transcript. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Media NewsGroup, Inc. by NewsBank, Inc.

Record Number: 100510A03_art_0.