Students continue as force at national undergraduate research conference

Western Carolina University students once again will be a force to be reckoned with at the country’s most prestigious undergraduate research conference.

WCU students had a total of 66 project abstracts accepted for presentation at the 2013 National Conference on Undergraduate Research, an annual spring gathering that allows students from across the nation to present their best research. Among the 408 colleges and universities that will send students to this year’s conference, WCU tied for third place in the total number of projects approved by the NCUR abstract review committee.

Since 2006, WCU has placed in the top 10 in projects accepted for NCUR, and for five of those years has been ranked in the top five, said Brian Railsback, dean of WCU’s Honors College. The college oversees the participation of WCU students in NCUR each year.

“Our faculty members are exemplary mentors for our students as they conduct undergraduate research,” Railsback said. “No other university has demonstrated the consistency that WCU has achieved in participating in NCUR. Our work in undergraduate research is what makes me proud to be a Catamount.”

NCUR provides a forum for undergraduate scholars to share results of their work through posters, presentations, performances and works of art. The WCU students will take a 16-hour bus ride to this year’s conference, which will be held Thursday, April 11, through Saturday, April 13, at the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse.

About 50 students are expected to make the trip, Railsback said. The experience is provided mostly free to students, who only have to pay for some meals and incidental expenses. The trip is being paid for with local tuition funds set aside for undergraduate research.

Steve Carlisle

Steve Carlisle

Railsback will be joined in accompanying the students on the trip by Steve Carlisle, associate dean of the Honors College, who will retire in December. “This will be my ninth NCUR, and it’s one of the events that I will definitely miss,” Carlisle said. “How I got to see our students grow in their confidence and abilities over the years leaves me extremely proud of them and our faculty. We have some wonderful students here, and when given the opportunity, they truly shine.”

Carlisle said attending NCUR each year has given him a new perspective on education in the U.S. “I get to witness the excellence that is tomorrow at each one of these conferences and it continues to thrill me more and more,” he said. “When our students stand in a room and deliver a paper alongside students from UCLA, Harvard and Princeton, they feel a confidence that will continue with them throughout their college careers.”

For more information about this year’s NCUR trip and undergraduate research at WCU, contact Railsback at 828-227-7383.