The National Conference for Undergraduate Research celebrated its 21st anniversary on the campus of Dominican University in San Rafael, California from 12-14 April 2007. Seven Cadets representing six academic departments presented their faculty-mentored research in either a fifteen minute oral presentation or in a two hour poster session format.

Cadet travel expenses were covered by VMI’s Office of Undergraduate Research provided by a grant from the Jackson-Hope Fund. Colonel James E. Turner ’65, Professor of Biology and Chemistry, and VMI’s Director for Undergraduate Research said that “I attended all of the VMI presentations and was extremely proud of the Cadet’s performance which was of such a high quality that many in the audience were taken by their poise and depth of knowledge.

In one engineering session, all the presenters were from the service academies and only one was form VMI. The exciting thing was that our cadet made the most polished and professional presentation of anyone of the speakers.”

Those participating in NCUR 2007 were:

Cadet Jeremy Adams ‘08, Molecular Biology Poster, Title: IDENTIFICATION OF THE FUNCTION OF AN UNCHARACTERIZED GENE IN SACCHAROMYCES CEREVISIAE, Faculty Adviser: Maj. Leah stands, Assistant Professor of Biology.

Cadet Thomas Cunningham ‘08, Mechanical Engineering Poster, Title: MODIFICATION OF A RESTRICTED ENGINE TO OPTIMIZE ITS PERFORMANCE AND POWER OUTPUT, Faculty Adviser: Colonel Timothy Hodges, Professor and Head, Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Cadet George Flathers ‘08, Electrical Engineering Oral Presentation, Title: EMERGENCY UNDERGROUND COMMUNICATION USING SEISMIC WAVES, Faculty Adviser: Lt. Col. Jim Squire, Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering.

Cadet Laura Hash’07, German Oral Presentation, Title: CONNECTING CURRENCIES AND BURYING HISTORIES: THE EFFECTS OF THE EU ON GERMAN NATIONAL IDENTITY, Faculty Advisor: Ms. Patricia Hardin, Instructor of Modern Languages and Culture, and Associate Director for Undergraduate Research.

Cadet Wesley Hopkins ‘07, Homeland Defense Oral Presentation, Title: VIRAL HEMORRHAGIC FEVERS AS BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS AND TOOLS OF TERROR, Faculty Advisers: Lt. Col. Wade Bell, Associate Professor of Biology; and Col. R.E. Burnett, Professor of International Studies ,

Cadet Robert Payne ‘07, National Security Oral Presentation, Title: HISTORICAL ANALYSIS OF INSURGENT WARFARE AND THE CONSTRUCT OF A MASTER DATABASE, Faculty Adviser: Col. R.E. Burnett, Professor of International Studies.

Cadet Robert Russman ‘07, Civil Engineering Oral Presentation, Title: PILOT TESTING OF A PASSIVE PERIODIC FLUSHING TECHNOLOGY TO IMPROVE THE PERFORMANCE OF VERTICAL FLOW REACTORS FOR THE TREATMENT OF ACID MINE DRAINAGE, Faculty Adviser: Maj. Charles Bott, Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering.

In addition to sending Cadets, the Undergraduate Research office developed a new faculty initiative last year which involved the concept of sending faculty to NCUR and Big South undergraduate research conferences for the purpose of exposing them to the research activities that students accomplish in their fields. These faculty would then take back this information for their own benefit, as well as, passing along information to their colleagues in their various departments. This year one Professor was chosen from nominations made by their department chairs; Maj. Neal Messer, Assistant Professor of Modern Languages and Culture.

Maj. Messer had glowing comments about the organization of the meeting and the quality of the work presented. Specifically, Maj... Messer said the …“I have a much better idea of how to prepare my students for not only undergraduate research but for national presentations. The positive aspect of the conference is that so many students are able to make a presentation at a national meeting, which is a fantastic opportunity to gain confidence in their presentation skills. As a new faculty member, the conference allowed me to gain exposure to the types of research being performed at the undergraduate level in my field. This will allow me to be a more effective research mentor, which I intend to be my main cadet development focus at VMI. Spending time with cadets in a less formal setting was also a valuable aspect of the trip.”

The idea for a national conference open to all undergraduates was conceived and first implemented at the University of North Carolina at Asheville (UNCA) in 1987. Despite minimal publicity, a meager budget, and professional advice that no one would attend such an unfocused affair, the initial conference drew an astonishing 400-plus participants. Registrations totaled more than 2,000 at the tenth annual conference at UNCA in April 1996, representing over 300 colleges and universities from across the United States. While initially a conference heavily rooted in the sciences, NCUR has been able to expand participation in all academic disciplines. By 1995, over 40% of the registrants were from fields in the humanities, arts and social sciences.

NCUR, established in 1987, is an association supportive of college and university faculty, students, administrators, and others interested in:

  • promoting undergraduate research, scholarship, and creative activity in all fields of study;
  • enriching undergraduate teaching and learning by providing opportunities for students to experience firsthand the processes of scholarly exploration and discovery that characterize academic life;
  • assisting faculty and others to understand and appreciate the goals, methods, and results of diverse areas of inquiry and ways of knowing.

Purposes of NCUR:

  • encourage awareness of undergraduate research, scholarship, and creative opportunities as they exist in various disciplines and types of institutions;
  • promote appreciation of the valuable role these components play in complementing the other aspects of undergraduate education and in encouraging the pursuit of advanced study and academic careers;
  • communicate and celebrate the results of such student-mentor collaborations;
  • foster a multidisciplinary and multicultural community of researchers, scholars, and artists linked by a common enthusiasm for learning.

NCUR seeks to achieve its goals through:

  • sponsorship of an annual conference;
  • publication of the proceedings of its conferences;
  • establishment of a national network of faculty, students, administrators and others who are interested in developing and strengthening programs devoted to such activities;
  • assisting in the planning and evaluation of undergraduate research programs;
  • special projects on issues relating to the goals of the association.

The most visible element of NCUR's programmatic activities is its three-day annual conference, which is both its "voice" and its source of credibility. Unlike meetings of other professional bodies, this gathering of young scholars welcomes presenters from all institutions of higher learning and from all corners of the academic curriculum. Through this annual conference, NCUR creates a unique environment for the celebration and promotion of undergraduate student achievement, provides models of exemplary research and scholarship, and helps to improve the state of undergraduate education.

It is fair to say that this conference provides the primary coherent framework to the national undergraduate research movement. Without it, undergraduate research in America would still be splintered into activities narrowly defined by discipline, and perhaps also further divided by institutional type.

In 2005 VMI and Washington and Lee University hosted the NCUR Conference which is still heralded as their best meeting in recent memory.