Celebrating Undergraduate Research

by Anne Reynolds

Celebrating Undergraduate Research

George Mason University’s proud leadership in undergraduate research shone through on April 30, as the College of Humanities and Social Sciences held its Undergraduate Research Symposium, the longest-running program of its kind on Mason’s campus.

The 76 poster and oral projects presented were as diverse as the academic disciplines housed in the college. From California’s paid family leave program, to expatriate teachers in Japan, to diversity and subversion in young adult fiction, to genetically modified food – and beyond, the oral and poster presentations offered a rich sample of the meaningful research that the humanities and social sciences support. 

Students prepared for the symposium for months. The event is open to any college undergraduate who is working on faculty supervised projects (course research or independent research) during the fall 2017 and/or spring 2018 terms. After submitting abstracts of their projects, students had the opportunity to work with the Office of Student Scholarship, Creative Activities, and Research (OSCAR) and Fenwick Library to polish their presentation and poster design skills.

Students at 2018 Undergrad Research Symposium

Their work paid off. “I applaud the hard work of all of the college’s students who presented their scholarly work at the Undergraduate Research Symposium,” said Michele Schwietz, the college’s associate dean for research. “It was truly remarkable to see the originality and thought that went into each student’s presentation.”

“We love the college’s commitment to undergraduate research!” said interim senior associate dean Shannon Davis. “Looking at the presentations here today, they truly reflect our times, but more so, they reflect the messages that George Mason University stands for: an effort to understand the totality of the human condition and how our lives are interconnected from the past, to the present, to the future.”

"This year was the 10th year of holding our undergraduate research symposium, so we invited back alumni who were previous award winners to help judge this year's poster presentations,” explained Vita Vock, the college’s associate dean for undergraduate academic affairs. “Several of them shared with us how important the experience of undergraduate research was to advancement in their early careers."

Indeed, Laya Muralidharan, BS Psychology ’13, was very enthusiastic about her work in pursuing a research project. “My undergraduate research experience was one of the most valuable experiences I had been a part of,” she said. “The people I worked with along the way have helped me grow in my career and some are still mentors in my life. The work I had completed during my undergraduate research went on to become published work and launched me into a career I am passionate about today in Human Computer Interaction and Product Management.”

Saira Bhatti, BA Global Affairs ’14, agrees. “Research trained me for future projects in graduate school including time management and triangulating sources. This is something you need in many fields whether you're in a nonprofit or a government position. Getting multiple sources of information and being able to analyze and connect that information will always be a critical skill for your future.”

This year, philosophy major Summer Claveau‘s presentation, An Existential Approach to Healthcare Oppression, was selected as the Best Overall Research and Scholarship in the Oral Presentation category. Psychology major Louis Boemerman’s presentation, Commute mode, Commute Length, and Subjective Well-being: A Meta-Analysis, was chosen as the Best Overall Research and Scholarship in Poster Presentation. Five other presentations were noted as outstanding:

  • Lucas Muratore, communication and film major, for his project, Does Batman Cry: A Content Analysis of Tearing Among Male Superheroes of Film.
  • Nadine Rozell, foreign language major, for her project, Elementary School Outcomes Associated with Fast English Language Acquisition for Dual Language Learners.
  • Claudia Torres, psychology major, for her project, The Effect that Genetically Modified Food Can Have on Aggression in Chickens.
  • Hunter DeRensis, history major, for his project, Luxury on Fire: The Impact of the Hindenburg Disaster.
  • Molly Kluck, psychology major, for her project, The Effect of System Wide Trust on Heterogeneous Populations of Unmanned Autonomous Vehicles.

The official program for the symposium, listing all presentations, presenters, faculty mentors, and judges, is available in the tab to the right.