Warren Wilson College News

Natural Science Seminars (WIP)

By: Kim

Each March at the North Carolina Academy of Sciences meeting, undergraduate students from across the state present the results of their scientific research. A panel of scientists judges presentations, and Derieux Awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Research are awarded. Each student who wins a first place award is invited to submit a full manuscript to the NCAS journal.

Six Warren Wilson College students displayed their research findings at the North Carolina Academy of Sciences March 24-26 at Bennett College in Greensboro. The students who will be presenting are Amos Little, Katherine Kennedy, Tessa Branson, Julia York, Amanda Davis and Stacey Hollis. The topics they have researched range from effects of herbicide on invasive plants to mineral amounts in piglets.

The WWC Students are presenting the results of a semester of experimental research. The Natural Science Seminar, a requirement for all undergraduates majoring in the sciences, allows students to do hands on research with a knowledgeable mentor and present their findings to peers, professors, and scientific organizations. The Natural Science Seminars are another way WWC sets itself apart from other Colleges.

"The NSS experience has been very helpful in understanding how research is done from start to finish, including designing methods, finding funding, carrying out the project, and analyzing data," says student Amanda Davis. "Even though my project was not directly related to something I would like to do in the future, the experience will be helpful when I do move on to internships and graduate school because I already have independent research experience. It also gives students the opportunity to work one-on-one with a professor, which can be an extremely valuable experience and a way to learn more about the professional world of science and reserach."

The Natural Science Seminars are far more than just a means of gaining in depth knowledge in a specific area of interest.. Many WWC students have presented their findings to the North Carolina Academy of Sciences and have received money to fund their research. WWC has received more first place prizes at the NCAS conference than any school in North Carolina. The undergraduate research also aids in Graduate school presentations. "Many students have discovered the Natural Science Seminars help alleviate the anxiety of giving presentations in graduate school," Don Collins, physics professor says. "We reassure the students that they are the expert on their research. During their presentations, no one else in the room knows more about their topic than they do, and that helps give them confidence." Collins also adds that the Natural Science Seminars are the "best thing" that the WWC science department does.

Experimental Research at Warren Wilson College is a fairly recent addition to the undergraduate curriculum, replacing the library research that was at one time the status quo for science majors. In the early 1980s, a division of Natural Sciences expanded to include chemistry and physics on campus. Seminars were still mostly literature based researched until Lee swinson, Bill Davis, Sid Craig, Vickie Collins, Don Collins, and Dean Kahl, all professors in the Science Department, pushed for experimental research. A big change occurred in how the seminars were conducted when they became experiment based enhancing the scientific value of student projects by engaging students in research that requires analysis, critical thinking, problem solving, and utilizing scientific methods.


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