Monday, May 3, 2010 - 2:11pm

A submission by JCC sophomore Jill Mahon was one of nearly 100 scholarly posters represented in a showcase of undergraduate research done at SUNY colleges.

Ms. Mahon participated in the first Summer Undergraduate Research Institute at JCC in 2009, where she began studies to understand how cancer cells in bone marrow can be affected by chemotherapeutic agents.

The showcase, “SUNY Undergraduates Shaping New York's Future: A Showcase of Scholarly Posters at the Capitol,” highlighted undergraduate research and creative academic endeavors offered at SUNY campuses across New York state. In all, 32 SUNY campuses were represented in the April 13 display at the Legislative Office Building in Albany.

“Whether the topic is the use of alternative energy, the anti-predator strategies of earthworms or the effects of non-conscious exposure on a person's fear of spiders, the SUNY campuses are hotbeds of ground-breaking research and innovative academic activity,” said SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher.

The event brought together some of SUNY's most talented undergraduate scholars to present their research and creative academic projects to a large audience that included SUNY administration officials, state legislators, and interested members of the public.

To participate in the showcase, SUNY campuses were asked to self-select up to three undergraduate research or creative endeavor posters that represent a sampling of the breadth of academic work offered at the campus and/or an academic or research specialty that highlights the campus. Each participating SUNY campus had its own display area.

The event was sponsored by the Undergraduate Academic Programs and Policies Committee of the SUNY University Faculty Senate.

Marilyn Zagora, JCC's vice president and dean of academic affairs, explained that research conducted at the undergraduate level is an extremely valuable aspect of the collegiate learning experience which has found growing support within the academic community in recent years.

“Through these research experiences, students are exposed early in their college careers to the intellectual rigors of research as well as to the pleasures of personal discovery which may in turn advance knowledge in their field of study,” noted Dr. Zagora. “We applaud these students and faculty for being in the vanguard, and we expect to support additional student research efforts within other disciplines in the future.”

Ms. Mahon's poster, “Changing the Paradigm: Improving Science Retention Using a Summer Undergraduate Research Institute,” was created under the mentorship of Jan Bowman, associate professor of biology, Ellen Lehning, Ph.D., associate professor of biology, and Jacqueline Crisman, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology, and Jody Boninsegna, JCC's senior graphic designer.

JCC chemistry professor Nancy Bryant accompanied Ms. Mahon to Albany for the showcase presentation.

Ms. Mahon's poster incorporated elements of JCC's SURI program, a four-credit course initiated in 2009. The program, designed to expose JCC and area high school students to the thrill of scientific discovery, also introduced 21st century research skills to improve both knowledge and marketability. SURI's interdisciplinary approach included examination of scientific literature and the design and performance of experiments.

Emphasizing that the United States faces declining enrollments and retention in science curricula which impedes the next generation from engaging productively the global marketplace, Ms. Mahon focused on JCC's attempts to provide authentic learning environments through cutting edge and intellectually challenging scientific research.

Led by the three JCC biology faculty members, all of whom are published investigators, SURI students performed biomedical research on programmed cell death in cancer as well as environmental research of the Chautauqua watershed. They also participated in a colloquium where they read, critiqued, and presented scientific papers and engaged in their own research projects. A capstone experience included a group presentation where results and conclusions were given.

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