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USCA Scholar Showcase features student research

April 19, 2018 GMT

USC Aiken students presented research they’ve worked on this year to students, professors and the public Friday during the 11th-annual Scholar Showcase.

More than 200 students in all disciplines and from all classes participated. The showcase featured oral presentations in the morning and poster sessions in the afternoon. Many seniors who will graduate in May presented their capstone experiences, the culminating projects of their college careers.

This year’s Scholar Showcase was the “largest yet,” said Dr. Bill Jackson, the chairman of the Department of Biology and Geology, who helped coordinate the event.

“Scholar Showcase is an opportunity for our students to showcase the work they’ve done over the past year,” Jackson said. “It includes the humanities, nursing, business and the sciences, which includes mathematics, engineering and psychology. It’s weighted more heavily in the sciences, but the humanities certainly are present. We try to be all inclusive.”

Undergraduate research has become a trend in higher education, but USCA offered students hands-on experiences beyond the classroom before the trend caught on at other colleges and universities, Jackson said.

“It’s a learning experience for students,” he said. “Scholarship to a student means that they’ve gotten their hands dirty. It’s just not academics, sitting in a classroom, listening to a professor. You’re actually doing something.”

Research and the showcase also provide good training for students looking beyond graduation, Jackson said.

“If you’re a science major and want to go to graduate school or medical school or any professional school or if you just want to get a job, how much more successful will you be if you have this kind of experience behind you? ” he said. “Again, we’re not just academics. Academics are important, but if you’re trying to build a biologist, it’s not just rote learning. You learn how to be a biologist. The university has gotten behind this, and it’s been a great experience.”

At the showcase, Kirstyn Denney, a senior biology major from the Aiken-Augusta area, made her senior and honors presentation on the work she did on the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV, for the last four years. After graduation in May, she plans to apply to graduate school to become a physician’s assistant.

“Being in undergraduate research has really helped me in all of my classes,” Denney said. ”It’s helped me get closer to the professors, which helps with networking and preparing for graduate school. It’s given me great friends, too.”

Denney said being involved in research also gave her a different perspective of the university.

“You see the hard work, the dedication,” she said. “People are here in the labs until midnight or later and are here before anyone else wakes up so they can do their research. It’s amazing.”

Judah Londo, a junior communications major from Detroit, Michigan, made two presentations: one on feminism in the television comedy, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” and the second on how atheists develop a moral code. He said the projects would help prepare him for graduate school and eventually to work in protected land management.

“I expected to do a little bit of research as an undergraduate but maybe not so in-depth,” Londo said. “It teaches you how to conduct qualitative research, so you know how to put together a dissertation or a doctoral proposal in graduate school.”

Celeste Suggs, a 1983 USCA graduate with a degree in business administration, sponsors Scholar Showcase.