School of Agriculture and Applied Sciences hosts 4th annual Centers for Research Excellence Symposium

On Thursday, Feb. 8, the Alcorn State University School of Agriculture and Applied Sciences, in conjunction with the School of Arts and Sciences, hosted its 4th annual Centers for Research Excellence Symposium. The event was held in the Biotechnology Auditorium, Biotechnology Building, Lorman campus. Students, faculty and staff, as well as interested parties from surrounding academic institutions, had the opportunity to communicate their research and receive feedback on their respective findings. Awards were given for those who presented compelling studies in an engaging manner.

According to Dr. Babu Patolla, professor of biology and dean for the School of Arts and Sciences, “This opportunity challenges the minds of our students, faculty and staff. It also allows the University community to keep abreast of the various research capabilities, resources and accomplishments that occur on our campus.”

The Centers for Research Excellence Symposium began in 2013 as an effort to prepare and expose students to the culture of scientific conferences.  Students experience various standard conference elements including registration, abstract and poster submission, vendor information, and on-stage presentations. The symposium is scheduled each year as a preface to the Mississippi Academy of Sciences’ (MAS) annual state-wide conference, allowing student presenters to refine their presentations in front of an audience of professors and peers.  Presentations are accepted from various disciplines, including biotechnology, agriculture, biology, chemistry, psychology, math, computer science and physics.

According to Dr. Melissa Mason, assistant professor of animal science and conference co-chair, “Many have only ever presented in front of peers and advisors. Practice makes perfect—we hope that by starting them off with smaller crowds, we can help them to become more comfortable and confident.”

Dr. Keith McGee, associate dean for research and administration, concurred with Mason’s assessment.

“We decided that if we could have an event that would occur before the regional meeting [the Mississippi Academy of Sciences’ (MAS)], we could help the students to prepare.”

To ensure its effectivity, McGee emphasized that the Symposium’s environment is not totally innocuous. “Abstracts and presentations undergo a rigorous examination,” he said. “Top notch scientists listen to the presentations and judge based on their experiences in specific disciplines.”

Participants largely range from undergraduate to graduate students, however faculty also have an opportunity to participate.  According to McGee, “We’ve created a space where not only students are challenged, but faculty as well. As a result, we are all compelled to sharpen our skills, compete, and remain intellectually curious.”

According to April Stampley, administrative assistant, Center for Biotechnology, participation has swelled over the Symposium’s life-span.

“We started off with only 15 presenters the first year. This year, we had 38. We’ve also had students to participate from other colleges such as the University of Southern Mississippi, which is the home of the Mississippi Academy of Sciences Conference. The event has grown tremendously, and we have plans to support its continued growth in the years to come.”

For more information on the School of Agriculture and Applied Sciences, visit