April 20, 2006 was another milestone in the five-year history of the Undergraduate Research Initiative (URI) at VMI. On this date ninety-eight cadets presented results of their faculty-mentored research to an audience of their peers, faculty, and guests at VMI’s fifth Undergraduate Research Symposium (URS). This number is twice that of several years ago. Cadets from all disciplines presented their work in either an oral format, in Scott Ship Hall, or at the poster session held in Cocke Hall. Presentations were divided by academic divisions, Liberal Arts, Science, and Engineering. Faculty and guests served as judges in both oral and poster presentation categories.

“This year was truly a milestone for the URI, never did we dream five years ago that we would have this level of participation”, said Colonel James E. Turner ’65, Professor of Biology and Chemistry, and Director for Undergraduate Research. “Cadet research projects were of such high quality that many of our guests and faculty were astounded by the complex nature of the work and the poise of the presenters as they talked about their investigations, and we owe this distinction to cadet intellect, and outstanding faculty mentorship”, said Colonel Turner.

This year the URS was organized by Major Elena Andreeva, Assistant Professor of History, who chaired the planning committee, Patricia Hardin, Instructor in Modern Languages, and the URI Associate Director, and Leslie Joyce, the URI Administrative Assistant. “Their dedication, enthusiasm, and their work ethic went beyond any reasonable expectations because they love to make these things happen in the best possible way for our cadets”, said Colonel Turner.

Another new initiative for the URS this year was the inclusion of classroom generated research activities in addition to the usual one-on-one cadet/faculty generated projects. Colonel Tom Meriwether, Professor of Psychology and Philosophy, required all his fall semester capstone course students to complete research projects and submit them to the URS for consideration as part of the program. Colonel Meriwether said …“he believes that undergraduate research is the jewel in VMI’s academic crown that we do so well”.

This new initiative was a great success since the top three poster awards came from the work generated in Colonel Meriwether’s class. Next year the URI plans to highlight more classroom research projects from across post.

The activities of the URS culminated in an evening awards banquet. The key note speaker was Doctor Cliff Kiracof who talked about “Research, Honesty, and the Citizen Soldier”. Kiracofe is a former Senior Professional Staff Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and has taught at the U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College. Three cash awards were presented in each of the three academic disciplines and presentation categories. The winners were:

Liberal Arts Posters:

The first place for Liberal Arts poster was awarded to Cadet Jared Sheets‘06 for his poster presentation “Enlisted Retention in the Virginia National Guard” (Faculty Mentor: Col Meriwether)

  • The second place for Liberal Arts poster was awarded to Cadet Kirby Smith’06 for his poster entitled “Situational Leadership Styles of Cadets.” (Faculty Mentor: Col Meriwether)
  • The third place for Liberal Arts posters was awarded to Cadet Brittani Mack’07 for her poster “Satisfaction Potentials Among Different Leadership Climates and their Effectiveness.” (Faculty Mentor: Col Meriwether)

Liberal Arts Oral presentations:

  • The first place for Liberal Arts Oral presentations was awarded to Cadet John Terminato ‘07. The title of his presentation is “Spain, then and Now 1939-1975: The Pact of Silence.” (Faculty Mentor: Col Mary Ann Dellinger)
  • The second place for Liberal Arts Oral presentations was awarded to Cadet Tim Helmick’06 for his oral presentation entitled “Misuse of German Language in the Third Reich.” (Faculty Mentor: Col. Don Sunnen)
  • The third place for Liberal Arts Oral presentations was awarded to Cadet Michael Canning’07 for “regression towards the mean and investment Portfolios.” (Faculty Mentor: Col. Bush)

Engineering Posters:

  • The first place Engineering poster was awarded to Cadet Dennis Crump ’06 for his poster presentation entitled “Robot Navigation Control through the use of Fuzzy Sensors.” (Faculty Mentor: Col Livingston)
  • The second place for Engineering poster was awarded to Cadet Will Flathers’08 for his presentation entitled “What they hear: Simulating the Effects of Hearing Impairments on Children for Parent/Patient Education.” (Faculty Mentor: LTC Squire)
  • The third place for Engineering posters was awarded to Cadet Jonathan Ostermann ‘08 for his presentation entitled “Fuzzy Logic Control of a Robotic Arm” (faculty Mentor: Col Livingston)

Engineering Oral presentations:

  • The first place for Engineering Oral presentations was awarded to Cadet Justin Woulfe’06 for his presentation entitled “An Autonomous Robot for the Collection and Extermination of Ticks” (Faculty Mentor: LTC Squire)
  • The second place for Engineering Oral presentations was awarded to Cadet John Fox’06 for his presentation entitled Investigation of Zinc Inhibition of Nitrification at the Arlington, VA Wastewater Treatment plant” (Faculty Mentor: Maj. Bott)
  • The third place for Engineering Oral presentations was awarded to Cadets John Lento ’07 and Zack Huson’07 for their presentation “Design and Implementation of a leg for use in a radial symmetric octopedal robot” (Faculty Mentor: Col. Livingston)

Science Posters:

  • The first place Sciences poster was awarded to Cadet Gregory Barnekoff’07 for his presentation entitled  “Fabrication of photovoltaic devices with an active layer of MEH PPV and Fullerenes” (Faculty Mentor: Maj G. Topasna)
  • The second place for Sciences poster was awarded to Cadet Carolyn Lanier’07 for her poster entitled “Novel Guandine-based Antennas for luminescent materials” (faculty Mentor: Maj Timmons)
  • The third place for Sciences posters was awarded to Cadet Scott Donald’06 for his poster entitled “Structure Property Correlations in Acetate Glasses” (Faculty Mentor: Col Schreiber)

Sciences Oral presentations:

  • The first place for Sciences Oral presentations was awarded to Cadet Stephanie Mills’08 for her presentation entitled “Raloxifene Dose response Study on Developing Zebrafish” (Faculty Mentor: Col. Turner)
  • The second place for Sciences Oral presentations was awarded to Cadet Jessica Fulton’06 for her presentation entitled “The Role of Estrogen on retina regeneration in the Zebrafish testing Estrogen” (Faculty Mentor: Col. Turner)
  • The third place for Sciences Oral presentations was awarded to Cadet Tamas Farkas for his presentation entitled “Consequences from Studying Black Holes.” (faculty Mentor: COL R.E. Burnett)

The URI is indebted to the following VMI institutions for their financial support, without which this important event could not take place: the Jackson-Hope Fund, the VMI Research Laboratories, the VMI Foundation, the Dean’s Office, and the Academic Departments.