What happens when you ask librarians for help? A successful, multi-discipline, multi-platform undergraduate research fair blossoms. Annually water, grow, and repeat!
By: Rachel Olszewski
Guest Written by Jennie Knies, Head Librarian
This is what happens when you ask librarians for help. At the beginning of Spring 2015 Semester, Assistant Professor of Biology, Renee Rosier and Instructor of Engineering, Tim Sichler approached Head Librarian Jennie Knies and Student Engagement & Outreach Librarian Megan MacGregor for ideas about how to work with students to create research posters.
“Dr. Rosier had already created mini research fairs among her students in the past, but at this point there was interest in creating something with more of an impact across campus,” explains Knies.
In April 2015, Penn State Wilkes-Barre’s first Undergraduate Research Day occurred, featuring 62 posters with over 100 students participating. The event was successful due to effective collaboration between the Penn State Libraries and approximately 14 Penn State Wilkes-Barre faculty, along with support from the campus administration.
“In 2016, the original committee expanded, and as usually happens, the concept became expanded as well,” states Knies. “Changing the name to Celebration of Scholarship, the 2016 event focused not only on student research, but faculty research as well.”
This time, the event was too big for its original venue in the campus’s historic Hayfield House, and instead was held in the gym, in order to accommodate 105 posters created by over 150 students. Topics covered ranged from the sciences to the humanities, with some of the top posters describing projects such as: measuring the level of student engagement when introducing hands-on programming projects in a first year programming course, the effects of heat and other factors on cricket metabolism, cyber-delinquency, and the historic theaters of Key West, FL. The 2016 Celebration of Scholarship also featured several class exhibits, which presented displays, in a non-poster fashion, relating to banned books, graphic novels, poetry, and human sexuality.
“Celebration of Scholarship was a tremendous experience and is certainly one of the highlights of my time spent at Penn State. The atmosphere the day of the competition was unforgettable: over 100 students all enthusiastically sharing the research they had spent months working on with fellow students, faculty, staff, and community members,” explains 2016 business graduate and 2016 Best Poster for Applied Sciences winner, Ryan Oliver. “I was lucky enough to be just one of the many presenting my research that day. Throughout the year I worked with Instructor of Computer Science, Jeff Chiampi to explore the effect that hands-on learning projects had on student engagement in an engineering classroom. I collected data from numerous surveys and interviews. Being a business major it is rare to see the inside of an engineering classroom, and I was grateful a glimpse into another form of study.”
Enthusiasm for Celebration of Scholarship has not waned. This year, the committee anticipates close to 170 posters on a wide range of topics. Faculty in English, Electrical Engineering Technology, Surveying Engineering, Rehabilitation and Human Services, Biology, Physics, and several others have students working on projects that will result in posters for the event. Students from the Honors program will present their original research related to some aspect of Philadelphia history and culture and a finance class will present their SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis of a company of their choosing.
“Whenever professors included Celebration of Scholarship as a required portion of the class, students usually roll their eyes, sigh, or complain to other students about the requirement,” says journalism major and 2016 Best Poster for Humanities winner, Michele Brisco. “Once you arrive at the Celebration of Scholarship event, you step out of your comfort zone and present your accomplishments. Students should look at the event as a chance to improve their research, presentation, communication, and creative skills. This isn’t just a work experience; it’s a fun experience.”
This year’s Celebration of Scholarship will be held on Thursday, April 13, 2017 from 12:00 noon to 2:00 p.m. in the Athletic and Recreation Building gymnasium on the Penn State Wilkes-Barre campus. The opportunity to view of all of this research and to talk with our students about their work is for everyone as the Celebration of Scholarship is open to the public!