When most people think of research, they think “graduate” or “doctorate”, and besides the occasional research project, scientific research isn’t often associated with the undergraduate experience. Last week University of Louisiana at Lafayette hosted its very own Undergraduate Research Conference (URC), where both UL Lafayette students and students from across the state were able to present their own research.
Usually, research conferences cover one specific topic like microbiology or astrophysics, but the Undergraduate Research Conference welcomed a broad range of topics ranging from psychology to satellite engineering. Every presentation was chock full of interesting findings and there was so much to see and learn that there was never a dull moment.
One particularly interesting presentation was LSU undergraduate student Gregory Patton’s presentation on conversion therapy and its harmful effects. After conducting his research, combing through databases, studies and personal testimonies, Patton had several key findings.
One, that conversion therapy is ineffective in changing people’s sexuality and has been discredited by the American Psychological Associations, the American Academy of Pediatrics and various other medical and research organizations.
He also found an abundance of research confirming that conversion therapy can lead to an abundance of mental health problems. This includes self endangering, emotional turmoil, depression, suicidality and a deep feeling of anger towards one’s parents.
There are also numerous reports of abusive practices both emotional and physical. These reports mention therapists telling children that the government was going to kill them, patients having their hands burned and various forms of psychological manipulation. And unfortunately, conversion therapy is still legal and active in Louisiana.
The next presentation that stood out was Bincy Biju’s of Nicholls State University, who conducted research on antibiotic resistant bacteria.
It is widely documented that when antibiotics are prescribed too often, surviving bacteria multiply, increasing the number of bacteria that can resist and survive antibiotics. This means that over time, antibiotics could become less effective or outright useless.
Unfortunately in Louisiana alone, about 28% of cases where antibiotics were prescribed, they were unnecessary, which only increases the risk of bacteria becoming resistant and more dangerous.
This can be especially bad if the bacteria make their way into the water system. Biju found that some of the bayous in Terrebonne Parish possessed populations of coliform bacteria which can cause a variety of symptoms including vomiting and fever.
And even more alarming was that she discovered multi-drug resistant bacteria in the water that so many people depend on.
And to close out the first night, UL Lafayette student Emily DeGruise presented her research on corporal punishment in childhood as it relates to academic success in college students.
She conducted a survey of 400 psychology students and found that those that experienced corporal punishment as children were more likely to have a lower GPA.
Ironically, these students were also less likely to have characteristics that are typically associated with being a good follower.
When asked what research presentations stood out to him, Noah Mareschal, a general studies sophomore, said that DeGruise’s study on corporal punishment, Patton’s conversion therapy were incredibly interesting as well as UL Lafayette student Krisitin WIlson’s presentation on adverse childhood experiences in the black community.
The following day there was a second round of presentations after which researchers —including those that did not give an oral presentation— were welcomed to display their findings at the poster session.
During the poster session, people could approach the researchers and receive a more in depth explanation as well as answers to their various questions.
It was at this poster session where Brielle Jones, a UL Lafayette senior in psychology shared that research isn’t just an arduous and boring process, and that the conference helps to shien a light on that.
“I think it’s a really cool way to just remove the stigma around research. It’s really fun and it’s not spending 10 hours a night in the library.”
The URC and Advance–the program that runs it— are part of the ten-year Quality Enhancement Plan put forth by the university, which aims to build resources for students interested in conducting research.
The Quality Enhancement plan is implemented by the Student Center for Research whose director, Dr. Sherry Krayesky-Self had this to say about the benefits of undergraduate research:
“There’s two big ones, the first one for me is that during your education you engage at a deeper level which in my opinion makes your education more interesting and more fun. And the second is that you gain marketable skills and a competitive edge when you go out and apply for graduate school, professional school, or that first really important job.”
Krayesky stressed that Advance, the URC, and the Center for Research are resources for the students and the more students participate, the more the program will grow, bringing more opportunities like the URC to UL Lafayette.