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High hopes for upcoming research symposium

By Laura Traister
On March 30, 2014

Tuesday marks the occasion of one of ETSU's most valuable events offered to students: the Boland Undergraduate Research Symposium.
The symposium is a large event that gives undergraduate students a chance to present research at any stage of the process. The event is presented by the Honors College in conjunction with the university's Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.
Dr. Rebecca Pyles, dean of the Honors College, said, "The purpose of the Boland is really to celebrate the research that goes on by undergraduate students at this institution, and the way the institution has really incorporated that experience for undergraduate students, no longer limiting it to just graduate students."
The main structure of the symposium is the oral presentation.
Students may orally present a prospectus, plans for research, their preliminary data or a complete project.
Many students who present preliminary plans or research are able to get helpful feedback from others who attend the event.
This exchange of feedback is a deliberate element.
Pyles explained that instead of promoting competition and awarding prizes, "the intent is to get people talking."
Other regional conferences provide students with various outlets to share their research but many of these focus on graduate students and place limitations on undergraduate work.
This symposium, dedicated solely to undergraduate students, is in its ninth year, and it seems to just keep getting better.
Pyles explained why: "My hopes have already been exceeded. This will be our largest symposium ever. We have more than 90 students that are presenting, and a huge diversity, so we have many different disciplines represented, including various kinds of performance art, sciences, the social sciences, business."
The continuing success of the event is due to a strong collective effort.
The Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities, directed by Dr. Foster Levy, plays a major role.
"We work as a team to set everything up, and part of that team also is the Boland family," Pyles said.
The symposium exists thanks to an endowment by the family of Dr. Jay Boland, a math professor and director of the University Honors Scholars program at the university who unfortunately lost his life at a young age.  
"[Boland] was very, very supportive ... undergraduate research was one of his favorite things, so in recognition of that, the Boland family has established an endowment to help us do a really fine job at the symposium each year."
Boland's mother and two of his sisters will attend the symposium this year.
The event is sure to be a busy one. There will be four simultaneous sessions in order to fit in all the presentations.
Despite the great planning and effort involved, Pyles' hope for the future is even more expansion - "that we have so many students it'll have to be a two-day symposium."
The symposium is not the only research opportunity available to students, though: "There's a grant program, there's travel to conferences, there's the symposium, there's a work study program Research Discovery, summer research fellowships - all of those are available to any undergraduate at ETSU," Pyles said.
Whether one engages in research and presents at the symposium, or simply attends the event, "it's just a really, really valuable experience."
The symposium will take place from 7:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. Tuesday at the Millennium Centre next to the Carnegie Hotel.
Students can easily access the facility by crossing West State of Franklin Road via the pedestrian bridge.  
Visit for more information, including links to a program.
This event is free and open to the public.

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