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Six Student Researchers Invited to Congressional Briefing in D.C.

10/28/2010 —

Penn State Brandywine is rapidly earning widespread recognition for its extraordinary undergraduate research opportunities. As a result, the campus was the only school invited to bring six student researchers to a Congressional Briefing on undergraduate research and American innovation in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, Oct. 27.

“I feel undergraduate research lends more to real-world experience than any classroom setting can provide,” said junior Brooke Ballard, who was among those invited. “It enables students to truly take ownership of an idea, and through guided leadership, produce innovative and creative ideas that may be used to better our society as a whole. It teaches students they truly are capable of anything with hard work and by partnering with knowledgeable faculty.”

The students were invited by the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR), a national organization that supports and promotes high-quality undergraduate student-faculty collaborative research and scholarship, in conjunction with the House Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education Caucus. 

“I can't emphasize what an amazing experience this was, for myself and the students,” said Laura Guertin, honors coordinator, a huge supporter of undergraduate research and associate professor of earth science. “It was an honor to attend and to have Penn State Brandywine represented in a room focused on discussing outstanding undergraduate research models and programs.”

Guertin said the campus is gaining increasing national recognition for encouraging its students to engage in undergraduate research during their first two years.

“Our presence there was certainly noted by the Congressional staffers and interns that packed the room,” she said of the more than 60 attendees, which made for a standing room only event. “It was appropriate for us to be there,” as the speakers focused on initiatives for which the campus is already dedicated: interdisciplinary undergraduate research, getting students started with undergraduate research early in their undergraduate careers and creating a synergy between teaching and research for faculty and students to create innovation.

“I felt very honored [to be invited] and thought that the invitation said a lot about the prestige of the honors program at Penn State Brandywine,” Ballard said. “The event was truly inspirational. I think part of the reason we were invited was because [Penn State] Brandywine provides an innovative model for other institutions to follow when it comes to research at the undergraduate level.”

Left to right: Zanya Stephenson, Alex Harvey, Sara Neville, Benjamin Bean, Lavanya Mookerjee, Brooke  Ballard

Ballard (current research: Phone Philanthropy: A Mobile Giving Plan for Nonprofits) was joined at the Congressional Briefing by senior letters, arts and science major Benjamin Bean (current research: Rastafarian Views on Participation of Whites in Reggae Music); junior information science and technology major Alex Harvey (current research: Keeping History Alive: Preserving Brandywine Battlefield through Technology); freshman English and bachelor of philosophy double major Lavanya Mookerjee (current research: Visualizing the Link Between Humanity and Nature in American and British Literature through Google Earth); junior bachelor of philosophy major (concentrating in Educational Technology) Sara Neville (current research: Identifying Global Ethical Issues: A Case-Based Exercise for Introductory-Level Engineering Design Courses) and sophomore sociology major Zanya Stephenson (current research: A Merge Between Jamaican and U.S. Curricula that will Ensure No Child Gets Left Behind).

“Undergraduate research gives students an outlet to make a difference,” Guertin recalled hearing speaker Paul Edmiston, associate professor of chemistry at The College of Wooster, say at the briefing. Guertin couldn’t have agreed more.

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