Undergraduate Research Conference returns to Butler

The URC allows students from all six of Butler’s colleges to present their research. Photo courtesy of stories.butler.edu. 

EMMA CHAMLEY | STAFF REPORTER | echamley@butler.edu 

Butler’s 32nd Undergraduate Research Conference took place on April 8. This was the first time Butler hosted the conference since the COVID-19 pandemic began two years ago. Students from each of Butler’s six colleges had the opportunity to showcase research they have been engaged in over the course of their college careers. 

Chemistry professor Anne Wilson is the faculty director of undergraduate research and creative activities. She said this year the conference had 74 oral presentations and 45 posters, with topics ranging from anthropology to mathematics, and everything in between. Oral presentations took place in various locations across campus from 12:30 to 3 p.m. on April 8, while poster presentations were displayed in Irwin Library from 3 to 4 p.m. 

Due to the pandemic, only Butler students were allowed to participate this year. In the past, students from as far away as New York and California came to present their work in a setting open to students from across the nation. 

Wilson said giving students the opportunity to showcase their research is beneficial because it allows students to present in a comfortable and welcoming environment. 

“This is really a great opportunity for students to share their passion for their given subject,” Wilson said. “It’s really nice to have a tiny little bow on the top of their presence here at the end of their Butler career. So for a lot of our seniors, this is really a pinnacle experience.” 

All students, no matter their year, are able to participate in the URC. Those who present begin their research in a variety of ways. Some students conducted their research for the Honors program, and some were inspired after talking to professors about topics they are interested in. 

Maya Peterson-Womack, a junior political science, peace and conflict studies and French triple major, expanded her work from assignments done in class. Womack said her presentation focused on attitudes about LGBTQ+ issues in France and the Ivory Coast. 

Womack said she valued being able to present her research to both her peers and professors. 

“It kind of just gives me a way to show future employers or future educational opportunities what I’ve done in undergrad, but it also shows different people what I might be interested in,”  Womack said. “It’s also a way to show my friends what I’ve been working on.”

Letitia Bortey, a junior biology and Spanish double major presented at the URC. She first got involved with doing research after contacting her biology professor Dr. Jennifer Kowalski to learn more about a topic she was interested in class. Bortley said her professor told her about the URC and encouraged her to participate. Bortley’s poster presentation this semester focused on the molecular mechanisms that regulate neuron signaling. 

“I’ve done a couple conferences around Indiana and across the U.S., and I feel like it’s just very grounding to come back to Butler, and present to the people who have been actually supporting me throughout my research, who have seen me going to the lab late at night and getting stuff done,” Bortey said. “It’s gratifying … to feel that Butler love.” 

The day came to a close with keynote speaker Dr. Anna Krylov, chemistry professor at University of Southern California, and a visiting Phi Beta Kappa Scholar. Krylov’s presentation, “Molecules and Light: A Story of Life, Death, and Our Quest for Knowledge,” centered around her research on quantum chemistry. 

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