Conference of REU Student Scholarship (October 27th, Arlington, Virginia)
By Emily Paolillo, Class of 2013
This year, the Conference of Research Experiences for Undergraduates Student Scholarship was held in Arlington, Virginia. Undergrads from around the country gathered to present the research they had conducted while in their REU programs. I was lucky enough to have been selected to attend and to represent Brooklyn College’s Neuroscience REU program.
The conference was held at The Westin Arlington Gateway Hotel, in which we also stayed. (The accommodations were great too.) The first day included an opening plenary and a faculty poster session. The second day was when student presentations took place.
That morning, walking through the hotel at 8 AM, I could clearly distinguish who was there for the conference (and who was a normal guest) by the presence of large poster tubes hanging at their sides. When I entered the main hall, I was immediately struck by how the sheer number of student posters lined the walls of almost the entire conference area. At first it was intimidating to overhear the rush of hurried, technical conversations about a really vast range of topics, as students and collaborators discussed precise details. However, my trepidation immediately dissipated once I began to converse with those around me. Everyone at the conference was friendly and sincere. They were just as excited to present their own work as they were to hear about the work of others. Indeed, this was true for me too. I presented my poster, “10,000 Hours in Ten Minutes? Memory for Sequence Learning”, which reported on my research with Professor Matthew Crump, to students and faculty alike. It was really fun to present my findings to new people, but it was also quite enjoyable to answer their questions and to hear their thoughts on the topic. It was great practice for the future!
Yet, my favorite part of the conference was learning about the research of my fellow REU students. The projects expanded across a vast variety of fields (e.g., biology, engineering, astronomy, chemistry, computer science, botany). It was such an enriching experience to learn about work that was different from mine. One student programmed a map-making app for tablets that he and his mentor gave to underprivileged students in Rwanda to help them gain better spatial navigation skills. Another student worked to find dozens of unidentified red quasars spreading far throughout our universe. I felt honored to be part of such a diversified conference. Just as well, in reaching out to learn about others’ projects, I met a few people that I am still in contact with via email and Facebook. We plan to keep in touch and hopefully meet again at some point in the future. Overall, it was a great experience and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to attend.