University Honors Students prepare to take on NCUR


The Strike A Spark Conference was held in the Convocation Center on April 26. Students showcased their work through research and the arts. (Rachael McKriger)

Sarah Seader, Staff Writer

The National Conference on Undergraduate Research, also known as NCUR, is taking place virtually this year. Presenters will be sharing their research live April 4 through the 8 with the Celebratory Reflection and Award Ceremony taking place April 11, 2022. Over the years, Cal U has participated at NCUR with two Honors Students presenting for Spring 2022. Senior Kerry Katz and sophomore Sarah Seader will represent the University Honors Program as they present at NCUR.

Katz, a Fisheries and Wildlife Biology major, is looking forward to, “presenting live online and getting the opportunity to discuss my research with other people in my field across the country. I plan on watching as many student presentations as I can, both inside my field and out, to get a feel for what other undergrads are up to and hopefully find some inspiration for future projects of my own.”

Mark Aune, the director of the University Honors Program, is looking forward to the conference in general.

“I always enjoy seeing students’ research in all fields and all forms. One of the things I like about this job is that I am constantly learning new things, thanks to the students,” he said.

Since NCUR will be virtual this year, it does differ from the in-person experience.

“So much goes on at a conference beyond the presentations. The networking, the exploring, the learning. The conference is highly competitive and gives students excellent experience presenting their research and creative work and learning about the research and creative work of others,” Aune said.

Conferences like NCUR have an array to offer students as Aune said.

“It is also an excellent opportunity to network, learn about graduate schools, and visit a new university. Less directly, it is also an opportunity for students to get to know each other, for community to develop and for students to challenge themselves in different ways,” he said. 

Aune also mentioned it helps students, “learn and practice good research and creative skills and reify that fact that research and creative work are processes, not just products.”

Katz expressed the importance of conferences such as NCUR.

Presenting at a national conference might seem intimidating, but Cal U has an excellent support system when it comes to undergraduate research and creative pursuits,” she said. “You won’t have to do it alone. Presenting work that you’re passionate about is a fun way to develop your communication skills, and it looks great on a CV or resume.”

Katz said she was encouraged to apply for NCUR at Cal U’s Fall Creative Works and Research event.

“This was my first time applying to present at a national conference, and my faculty advisor, the Center for Undergraduate Research, and the Honors Program were all very helpful during the process,” she said.

NCUR has a wide range of categories and presentations, and various fields are represented.

“I’ll be doing a live presentation alongside an updated version of the poster I presented at the Fall Creative Works and Research Event on the effects of ground vibrations on reproduction and development in large milkweed bugs, Oncopeltus fasciatus,” said Katz. These conferences demonstrate the many opportunities for students, showcasing the students research and creative works.

Aune encourages students to participate in conferences and creative work events for a variety of reasons, but mainly to express and share their impact.

“In an open, democratic society, the production and dissemination of knowledge and creative work is one of the most important functions of a university. Conferences such as NCUR play an important role in this function,” he said. “They give students an opportunity to share what they have learned, created, and contributed to their areas of interest. It shows that we are not working in a vacuum here in southwest Pennsylvania. What students do here has an impact around the world.”

While conferences may be virtual or in-person, they are still ways for students to get involved. 

“If there’s a project you’re interested in pursuing, or if you’d like to present work you’ve already completed but aren’t sure if you’re ready to go national yet, Cal U’s research and creative events are a great way to get your feet wet,” Katz said, “Abstract submissions for Cal’s Strike a Spark conference will be opening soon. If you’re unsure where to start, contact the Center for Undergraduate Research at [email protected] or use those office hours and talk to a professor or advisor.”