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November 1, 2013
CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine

SRU hosts state system STEM conference

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - More than 120 students from across the state will present research Nov. 15-16 when Slippery Rock University hosts the inaugural Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Conference for Undergraduate Research in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

Student researchers, including 47 from SRU, will present 80 posters and 10 papers, said Deborah Whitfield, SRU professor of computer science and STEM undergraduate research coordinator.

Conference participants were chosen through a "double blind review" process of research projects. Faculty volunteers from the 14 state system universities reviewed student research papers and selected the participants without knowing gender, academic major or the student's home school.

Physics, chemistry, computer science, exercise science, biology, psychology, geography and environment research will be showcased, she said.

James Moran, PASSHE vice chancellor for academic affairs, is scheduled to attend.

Thomas Wenzel, professor of chemistry at Bates Colleges, will provide the keynote address. He has been the recipient of more than $2.8 million in research and educational grants and is a nationally recognized expert on student-faculty research.

Whitfield said more than 15 first-year students who are undeclared were recruited to hand out information about the conference and learn more about STEM careers.

Whitfield said the conference underscores the University's leadership in STEM education. "We're ahead of some of the other institutions in terms of undergraduate research and institutional support of undergraduate research in STEM," she said.

SRU volunteered to host the conference after STEM professors advocated for the importance of recruiting and retaining STEM students at a statewide meeting. Professors say STEM careers offer some of the best employment opportunities of the 21st century.

"When it was announced that we would be hosting the conference, we got a round of applause," Whitfield said.

"Reaching for 2025 and Beyond," SRU's strategic plan, cites STEM education as an intuitional priority, not only for employment, but to foster modes of thought and inquiry.

SRU's team heading the conference includes Whitfield; Jack Livingston, associate professor of geography, geology and the environment; Susan Hannam, dean of the College of Health, Environment and Science; Nancy Cruikshank, director of grants and sponsored research, Donald Zapien, professor of chemistry and Jennifer Willford, assistant professor of philosophy.

Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.