Innovative Student Research Conference Comes to Bucks

Shannon Harrar

Bucks will be holding their biannual Student Research Conference Dec. 3 in Grupp Hall. Started in the fall of 2008, the conference is a day-long gathering for students to come and present research reports in front of their peers and panels of administration.
Originally orchestrated by language and literature professors Jennifer Diamond and Lois Gilmore, the conference stemmed from them coming up with an alternative to oral presentations for their Comp110 classes.
They figured instead of giving oral presentations for the final project, why not let students present in a conference style?
What originally started out as something confined to the Language and Literature department soon expanded and branched out to virtually any department in the school, and even various clubs in the school.
Co-coordinator of the conference Professor Charlie Groth recalled how at one conference, the American studies club at the school submitted research exploring race and gender. Then on almost the polar opposite end, the Society of Bucks Engineers submitted their own topics too.
Groth really wanted to stress how the conference as a whole is more than just a scholarly activity — It’s a full-fledged event. It allows mass collaboration between students and faculty of different departments.
One project she recalled was done between nursing, theatre, and film students. The big research presentation between the three very different departments allowed the nursing students to practice interacting with mental illness patients, portrayed by the theatre students, which was then filmed by the cinematography students and submitted for review at the conference.
Another thing that is important to note about the conference is how wide the span of topics is. Students can really research and present on basically anything they have interest in.
Panels of administrators and faculty are put together to oversee the conference. They are typically organized by topic. For example, one year the topic of eating disorders was explored through the multiple perspectives of English composition, psychology, and women’s studies students.
Each research session has a moderator that listens to the topics and speaks to students about them, which leads into another great thing about the research conference. The whole event is a tremendous opportunity for students to network.
The lunch break half way through the day is very focused on letting students come together and compare notes on topics, and more importantly network with people who they otherwise may never get the opportunity to meet. Deans of different departments either come to the conference or send faculty project coordinators to come and observe the students and reach out to them about their topics.
Groth was very enthusiastic about this portion of the conference. “It’s not just your paper, it’s your research,” she said. One thing she loves seeing students realize is that the conference really allows them to become the experts on their topics, and when they see that it’s a major confidence booster.
The other co-coordinator, Professor Sarahlyn Bruck also commented on that great part of the conference. Naturally, students meet the day with nervousness and anxious anticipation, but that soon changes when the students actually present.
The environment of the conference is warm and non-threatening. There’s no intimidating podium or microphone, just an audience of people who want you to do well and genuinely care about your topic. “It’s actually fun and not terrifying,” Bruck said.
Bucks is the only community college in the area that does something like this, which makes the experience even more cool and unique. It’s a very rare opportunity for students to be able to conduct research and present to it to their peers and a panel of administrators. Most students don’t get this kind of experience until grad school.
The conference usually gets a turnout of about 150 to 250 students, but is open to the public and is really an awesome day for the community.
Although the deadline for registration for the conference is already over, there’s another held in April available for anyone to present topics of interest.