Students at the College of Staten Island had an opportunity to show off their research and creative projects recently at the Ninth Annual Undergraduate Conference on Research, Scholarship, and Performance. The event, held in the Center for the Arts, spotlighted the results of the student-faculty collaboration that is a hallmark of a CSI education. In total, more than 200 students and over 40 faculty mentors participated in 70 poster presentations and six performing arts programs that encompassed music, dance, and the visual arts.

The posters spanned the academic spectrum, including a robotic dog that entertained passersby, a study of gender and displacement in the Republic of Georgia, research on benzine’s effects on accelerating breast cancer development, the creation of paperless ePortfolios for students to organize and display their work, and a review of cartooning, among other topics.

Dr. Susan Holak, CSI Associate Provost for Institutional Effectiveness and Conference coordinator, said that the work on display “represents the culmination of a semester or a year’s worth of work on the part of our student-mentor pairs, and we all know how special that relationship is–one of sharing, discovery, and mutual trust.”

Underscoring the importance of the Conference for students, Dr. Holak added, “This is a time when students learn about participating and presenting in a discipline, gain exposure to the poster development process, and experience collaborative work. We know that the experiences that culminate at the Conference matter in graduate school applications–and might even change a career path.”

Student participants at this year’s Conference were enthusiastic about having the chance to display the fruits of their efforts, and also to experience the sense of community that comes with the opportunity to see the work of fellow students.

Michael Young, a senior who is studying with Dr. Catherine Lavender, commented, “I think [the Conference] is fantastic because most of my peers are presenting either projects or research that they’ve done, and it’s enjoyable to see the product of work that I only hear about.”

Elementary Education major and junior Stephanie Helewa, who was mentored by Dr. Peter Kabachnik, seemed to agree. “I feel that [the Conference] was really good. I’ve never been to one before and to see what everyone else is doing is great.”

Sophomore Computer Science major Vitaly Nirenburg, who worked with fellow Computer Science major and junior Justin Allen to develop a robotic dog with mentoring assistance from Dr. Susan Imberman, added, “Overall, this is a research community that you don’t really feel unless you’re working with other students. This brings us all together.”

Beyond the sense of community, other students’ comments reflected the sense of accomplishment and growth that they felt.

Freshman Jeanine Ruggierio, who worked with freshmen Joseph Adia and Amanda Couso with the guidance of Louise Levine on the ePortfolio project, noted, “We started from [scratch] and we’ve come so far. It’s nice to see our work developing.”

Sajini Gundry, who is researching breast cancer under Dr. Jimmie Fata, said that the conference has helped her to overcome her nervousness when explaining her work to others, giving her “a lot of experience in mingling with people and explaining my research much better.”

Although the Conference is in its ninth year, Dr. Holak mentioned that there were two new aspects to the event, as the Library and Alumni Association both played larger roles in 2010. The Library offered the services of a reference librarian to help student researchers increase the number of references in their projects, and the Alumni Association is helping Dr. Holak to track where past presenters have gone and what they are doing now. In addition, the Association reached out to participants from earlier conferences for the first time, encouraging them to come back and see how the Conference has grown.

Dr. Holak added that this event would not have been as successful as it was without the help of Dr. David Keberle, who coordinated the event’s creative performances; Jennifer Lynch, Associate Director of Alumni Relations, for providing staff t-shirts and conducting Conference alumni outreach; and Director of the Center for the Arts John Jankowski and Debbie Mahoney from the Provost’s Office for their diligent efforts to coordinate the Conference.

The Undergraduate Conference on Research, Scholarship, and Performance was sponsored by the Office of Academic Affairs with financial support from both the CSI Foundation and the CSI Student Government.