Students, faculty and staff convened on Sept. 27 in FSU’s Augustus B. Turnbull III Conference Center to celebrate the research accomplishments of some of Florida State University’s most exemplary undergraduates.
The President’s Showcase of Undergraduate Research Excellence provides undergraduate students the opportunity to formally present their research in a professionalized symposium environment.
In his address to participants and attendees, FSU President John Thrasher explained that the rich diversity of the research being conducted by undergraduates demonstrates the university’s dedication to providing a multidisciplinary experience designed to prepare students to make a real impact after graduation.
“Undergraduate research speaks to the core mission of Florida State University,” Thrasher said. “These projects reflect FSU’s longstanding commitment to nurturing well-rounded students. We want our students to be excellent thinkers and great citizens. We want them to be people of great character who use their talents to help others.”
The showcase — which is co-sponsored by the Center for Undergraduate Research and Academic Engagement (CRE), FSU’s Office of the President and the Student Government Association — represents the culmination of summer research projects funded by FSU IDEA Grants, a program devised by the CRE specifically to encourage and facilitate research at the undergraduate level.
Students of all majors are eligible for an IDEA Grant, and recipients are presented a stipend of up to $6,000 to pursue self-designed research, art, entrepreneurial and creative projects under the direction of a collaborative supervising faculty member. The guiding purpose of the grant is to equip undergraduates with the resources to freely and proactively explore their academic interests and passions.
At this year’s showcase, the breadth and diversity of those passions were on full display. The program boasted presentations on a variety of topics from a far-reaching array of disciplines — from discussions about the molecular influence of magnetic fields on the creation of new stars to investigations into the inconsistencies of our moral judgments to reflections on how people forge cultural connections to the food that they eat.
Taylor Kocher, a senior majoring in history and anthropology, was able to pursue an abiding academic fascination with the legacy of slavery and slave insurrections in the American South. The IDEA Grant allowed Kocher to travel to New Orleans over the summer and conduct extensive archival research on Americans’ reactions to the Haitian Revolution.
During her presentation, Kocher said that the opportunities and access she was afforded would have been impossible without Florida State’s exceptional undergraduate research programs.
“I pored for hours and hours over 19th century newspapers,” Kocher said. “I would have never had this opportunity, and my Honors Thesis wouldn’t be half of what it is, without the IDEA Grant and the help of the CRE.”
Karen Laughlin, dean of Undergraduate Studies, said that the work being presented at the showcase revealed the variety and quality of research being done by FSU undergraduates.
“The one thing that disappoints me about this showcase every year is that I just cannot get to every poster and every presentation,” Laughlin said. “It is always the greatest boost to see what incredible things the students are doing, the ideas that they’re generating, and the way they represent the best of the intellectual and creative work that goes on at the university.”
The achievements of the more than 50 undergraduate students who presented their research at the President’s Showcase reflect FSU’s status as a premier research institution. Undergraduates who are interested in conducting research are encouraged to start considering potential projects early in their university career to maximize the unique wealth of resources that FSU provides.
As Laughlin explained, a thriving community of undergraduate researchers works to elevate the university as a whole.
“The work that our students are doing here enhances the value of every degree that gets awarded by Florida State University,” she said. “It helps us all to reach another level of academic, intellectual and artistic excellence.”