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UNCP students display diverse research at 5th PURC


“Do you want to improve your garden?” asked David Blake.

Blake had one of 94 undergraduate research posters at the Pembroke Undergraduate Research and Creativity Symposium (PURC) on April 14. The event, sponsored by Progress Energy, drew the largest number of exhibitors in its five-year history.

The symposium took place during the Chancellor’s Installation Week, and Chancellor Kyle R. Carter offered greetings.

“I am particularly pleased to see this event during Installation Week,” Dr. Carter said. “This event and the week are a celebration of students, faculty and staff of the University. As is evident here, the University has made great strides in the area of undergraduate research.”

There were 94 presentations by approximately 128 students representing 12 academic departments. There were 46 faculty mentors for these projects.  

Diverse research from across the academic disciplines was on display. Blake, who graduated in 2010, won a National Institute of Health grant to fund his research, so he remained in the University’s labs to work on it.

“I used magnets and ultrasound to stimulate seed germination and growth of lima beans,” Blake said. “We found that both ultrasound and magnetic fields increased growth, but when used together they did not.”

“Ultimately, research like this looks at the implications of ultrasounds on unborn children,” he said. “I hope this research helps be get into graduate school.”

The day-long program included presentations on graduate schools and student research. Chemistry professor Dr. Cornelia Tirla sponsored two research projects, and she was impressed by the presentations.

“Every year, the quality of work improves,” Dr. Tirla said. “The students put a lot of time into their projects. I also saw some of the same students here last year. That’s good, because they have continued work on their projects.”

Andrew Fetch and Diana Walsh worked with a group of students in a Service Learning project for a comparative literature class taught by Dr. Michele Fazio. Service Learning combines an academic course of study with outreach and civic engagement.

“We interviewed Lumbee Elders about their views on a number of cultural issues related to home, gender, family and discrimination,” said Fetch, who was videographer for the project. “The elders said it was important to record the interviews to keep their culture alive.”

Walsh said the results surprised her. “It was an eye-opening experience,” she said. “The ideas I brought into the project were very different from what I heard coming straight from their mouths.”

Grant Merritt said his research could save companies millions of dollars in ineffective advertising. “I found that people remember humorous advertising when it’s inserted into humorous programming, but they don’t remember humorous ads as well in dramatic programs,” Merritt said. “Ad agencies and companies should be aware of this.”

The senior Mass Communi- cation major was enjoying the day. “Overall, this gives us a very good opportunity to showcase our research. It shows students’ genuine interest in their work, and it helps with grad school applications.”

Art major Caitlin McKone studied a little-known movement called “Steampunk” and created her own digital self-portrait in the style.

“I paint in other styles, but when I saw a portrait in this style, I really liked it,” McKone said. “Steampunk goes back to Jules Verne and H.G. Wells who created images of steam-powered machines.”

McKone’s entry won first place in the art category. Entries in PURC 2011 were judged in several categories. Progress Energy’s contribution allowed PURC to award prizes for first and second place entries in five categories. Prizes included $100 Bookstore gift cards for first place and $50 gift cards for second place entries.   Art Exhibit:

  • 1st – Caitlin McKone;Mentor: Dr. John Labadie; “A Steampunk Self Portrait”
  • 2nd – Amber Fillhart;Mentor: Adam Walls; “Naughty or Nice”
  • Honorable Mention – Rachel Johnson; Mentor: Dr. Brandon Sanderson; “Thoughts”

Posters – Social Sciences and Business

  • 1st – Daniel Davis, Stephanie Contestable-Grudier, Elizabeth Metzger, and Sara Pack;Mentor: Dr. Beverly King; “A cross-cultural examination of gender roles in American children”
  • 2nd – April Sheppard;Mentor: Dr. Melanie Hoy; “Dinner’s Ready! The role of family meal times in later emotional eating behaviors”
  • Honorable Mention – Nicholas Faulkner, Ashlee Doughty, Jessica Tulud, Chris Williamson; Mentor: Dr. Beverly King;  “Cross-cultural relationship comparisons”

Posters – Humanities and Mass Communications

  • 1st – Karen Spady;Mentor – Dr. Susan Cannata; “Sympathy for Dracula: Beliefs in question”
  • 2nd – Rachel Young;Mentor: Dr. Judy Curtis; “The Tiger Woods affair: Dichotomy between soft and hard news”;
  • Honorable Mention – Hannah Simpson;Mentor: Dr. Judy Curtis; “U.S. media objectivity: Coverage focuses on opposition of the proposed “Ground Zero Mosque”
  • Honorable Mention – Lonnie Cox, Tre Howard, Ryan Wise, Kim Stepp, and Kimberly Brassard;Mentor: Teagan Decker; “Adapting to and accessing the needs of nontraditional students”

Posters – Sciences

  • 1st – David Blake and Rebecca Panter;Mentor: Dr. William Brandon; “Physical methods to induce changes in plant growth and germination”
  • 2nd – Stephanie Edwards;Mentor: Dr. Marilu Santos “Qualitative and quantitative analysis of soli microorganisms from a biochar farm in Bladen County, North Carolina over three crop seasons”
  • Honorable Mention – Austin Griffin;Mentor: Dr. William Brandon; “Integrated approach to amplitude modulated laser design

Oral Presentations

  • 1st – Austin Griffin; Mentor: Dr. William Brandon; “On the electroluminescent quantum energy relation”
  • 2nd – Maria Hockaday;Mentor: Dr. Michele Fazio; “To share a skin: The truly tragic character of Edwidge Danticat’s Breath, Eyes, Memory
  • Honorable Mention – Jamie Patterson;Mentor: Valerie Austin; “Exploring percussion in early music”
  • Honorable Mention – Nina Bianca Oviedo;Mentor: Dr. Lydia Gan; “Medical tourism in Mexico and the Philippines: A SWOT Analysis”
  • Honorable Mention – Yi Yang; Mentor: Dr. Lydia Gan; “Medical tourism in the eyes of the insurance company”

This year’s judges included: Michael Alewine, Ryan Anderson, Robert Arndt, Shanna May Harrelson, Dr. Len Holmes, Dr. Maria Pereira, Dr. Jesse Peters, Dr. Nathan Phillippi, Dr. Lee Phillips, Dr. Bob Poage, Dr. Meredith Storms, Dr. Roland Stout, Dr. Jaki Tyson, and Paul Van Zandt.

Director of PURC is Dr. Peters, dean of the University Honors College and assistant director is Dr. Phillips of the Geology Department. The faculty members of the PURC Council are: Dr. Ryan Anderson (History), Dr. Tony Curtis (Mass Communication), Hal Davis (Music), Dr. Tulla Lightfoot (Art), Dr. Storms (Chemistry & Physics) and Dr. Poage (Biology).