On April 29, 2015, Penn State Wilkes-Barre hosted its first Undergraduate Research Day. The event, which was co-sponsored and supported by the Wilkes-Barre campus and the Penn State University Libraries, consisted of 61 posters created by 107 students, highlighting their research this semester. Students, faculty and staff converged in the campus’s historic Hayfield House to share, learn and admire the results of their scholarship.
The event was the brainchild of two Penn State Wilkes-Barre faculty, Renee Rosier (biology) and Timothy Sichler (engineering). Rosier had organized a smaller event in 2014, limited to her own students. Rosier and Sichler mentioned their hopes of growing the event in 2015, while talking to Jennie Knies and Megan Mac Gregor, librarians in the campus’s Nesbitt Library. These four became the official “Planning Committee” for the event.
The committee created a website, which served as a resource guide for participating students, highlighting best practices for poster creation and discussing research techniques. Knies and Mac Gregor taught two heavily-attended workshops in the Nesbitt Library, reinforcing the process and techniques for effective poster creation. Fourteen faculty members on campus encouraged their students to participate in the event, representing every discipline on campus (including biology, math, electrical engineering, English, information technology, rehabilitation and human services, and surveying engineering).
Thirteen volunteers from among the faculty and staff evaluated the posters based on three criteria: content, display and oral presentation. All of the students who participated in the event were professional, enthusiastic and eager to discuss their projects. In the end, a poster highlighting research centering on improvements to the Wilkes-Barre campus: “Expansion of Penn State Lehman Pond for the Benefit of Students and Wildlife Proposal,” by Stephen Jesso and Vanessa Robbins (faculty advisor: Dr. Christyne Berzsenyi, English), took home the first place award. Three honorable mentions were awarded to: “Campus Thoroughfare,” by Carlos Candelario, Greg Copelli, Bryan Flynn, Mark Rowe and Mike Vadas (faculty advisor: Christyne Berzsenyi, English); “Proposal to Complete/Restore PSU-WB’s Fitness Path,“ by Bryan Whiting (faculty advisor: Dr. Christyne Berzsenyi, English), and “3D Printing of Senior Project satellite,” by Jimmy Cosgrove, Mike Gentile, Danny Leighow and Mike Wright (faculty advisor: Timothy Sichler, engineering). All of these posters, plus additional eight top-scoring submissions will be displayed in the Penn State Wilkes-Barre’s Nesbitt Library through the end of 2015 and on the Undergraduate Research Day website. In addition, students have been encouraged to deposit their posters into Penn State’s ScholarSphere repository service.
Feedback and response to the event has been overwhelmingly positive. Plans are already underway for Undergraduate Research Day 2016. — Jennie Levine Knies, head librarian, Nesbitt Library, Penn State Wilkes-Barre