New name and events, same showcase for Student Research Day

Story by Brittni Straseske, Staff Writer

The 21st Student Research Day, now dubbed the Celebration of Excellence in Research and Creative Activity, will be held in the Davies Center this year, instead of Zorn Arena.

Students wanting to participate in research presentation are to submit an abstract of their research to the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs by March 7. The CERCA event will take place May 1 and 2.

The event is meant to give students the chance to present their findings after their hard work, instead of simply handing in a written report, said Karen Havholm, the director of the center of excellence for faculty and undergraduate student research collaboration.

The event will have some changes this year, she said. For the past 20 years, students participating in the event created a poster to put on display. This year, the event is expanding to include oral presentations, exhibits and performances, Havholm said.

“Posters are really good for presenting some kinds of research, if there’s a lot of images,”she said. “But … sometimes an oral presentation might be better or might be more appropriate for the discipline.”

Additionally, this is the first year the event will be called CERCA, instead of simply Student Research Day. The name change was meant to reflect the broad scope of research students participate in, Havholm said. A committee was formed to survey faculty members and students and come up with a new name.

“They really liked to think of it as a celebration, so they thought celebration was an important word,” Havholm said. “And they also wanted to signal it wasn’t just about, say, scientific research by adding the creative activity to the title.”

As a former faculty member who mentored students in the research process, Havholm thinks student involvement in research and presenting that research is important to the overall college experience, she said. It makes the distinction between simply learning about an area of study, and actually practicing it, she said.

“When you’re doing research, you’re actually creating knowledge for the discipline,” Havholm said. “Instead of learning about science you’re a scientist. Instead of learning about art, you’re an artist.”

Behavior analysis major, Ashley Niebauer, is currently doing research for the psychology department and plans on participating in CERCA. Her research involves the teaching preferences of children with autism, she said. She said the student research has gone beyond what is taught in classes.

“Conducting research has not only allowed me to learn a tremendous amount about my topic, but has also lead me to develop professionally,” Niebauer said. “I have presented research at several conferences, and the research that I have on my curriculum vitae has greatly enhanced my applications to graduate school.”

She has been working on her current project for about a year, but was involved in other research for the past three years. She said she personally believes that presenting the findings of the research is essential to the process.

“It is not only important for professional development reasons, but also for personal reasons,” Niebauer said. “Showing the final product of all your hard work is rewarding.”

Asia Riel, a researcher for the chemistry department, has been working on one project for two and a half years. She said it is important for all students to make an effort to attend CERCA, not just those presenting research findings.

It is an easy way for underclassmen to see what research is being done in the field they hope to enter and what professors they might want to collaborate with, she said. Further, showcasing a project is a great way to communicate new or expanded knowledge, she said.

“This is a way of showing the world, or in our case, the Eau Claire community, what you are doing and why,” Riel said. “I am huge on scientific communication in the fact that your research is useless if you cannot communicate it to others.”