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Campus Research Day Raises the Bar

Campus Research Day has been a tradition at Southern Adventist University for more than a decade, beginning with the School of Nursing and expanding to become a campus-wide event. However, this year organizers adjusted the structure of the event to provide a more valuable academic experience for participants.

“Campus Research Day had outgrown itself,” said Katie McGrath, chair of Campus Research Day. “It was so wildly successful that it had to change in some way. It had grown to the point that there were no longer enough appropriate presentation spaces, volunteers, or audience members to support the program.”

Previously, anyone on campus could present on Campus Research Day, allowing for good participation but low motivation to strive for excellence. McGrath worked with the academic and campus leaders to restructure the event, deciding that the best solution was to raise the bar for participation and institute the incentive of monetary prizes.

Under the new model, students could only present with a professor’s approval. As a result, fewer individuals participated—231 compared to 409 last year—but the quality of research was higher. Faculty judges representing the sciences, humanities, and social sciences evaluated the presentations, resulting in the top presenter in each category receiving a prize.

“Campus Research Day is a big thing,” McGrath said. “By raising the bar, we’ve made it a privilege to participate, and it becomes an important line-item on that student’s resumé. Just to present is a big deal and something that can go on a graduate school application.”

Marissa Chang, senior biochemistry major, received a prize for her presentation “Synthesis and Reactions of Phosphorus Containing Polyaromatic Hydrocarbons,” and she noticed the difference in this year’s experience.

“I have participated in Campus Research Day before for a class,” Chang said. “Before, the room I was presenting in was very small but only a few other people were in the room. This year I presented in a big room in the Hickman Science Center and it was pretty full when we started our session. The changes allow for us as students to be work toward a goal of winning. I think it gives more of a professional feel, and overall, I think it is a good learning experience for any career.”