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Talent Show

ONU’s annual Student Research Colloquium showcases student work.


If, by chance, you were just dying to learn about the “cationic polymerization of beta-pinene via methyl stearate and trityl borate addition” last Friday, boy, were you in luck.

That particular research project, along with 91 others representing Ohio Northern University’s four undergraduate colleges, were on display at the Student Research Colloquium held in McIntosh Center on Friday, April 26. The annual event, which kicks off Honors weekend, is a celebration of student excellence and a showcase for new ideas.

2013 Goldwater Scholar Courtney Olson answers questions about her research.

The colloquium is open to all ONU students with no restrictions due to age or subject. This year’s event was the largest yet with more than 195 researchers (students and faculty) presenting research that spanned ONU’s academic disciplines. But that is not the only indicator the colloquium is gaining in popularity.

“I would say the biggest growth has actually been in the audience,” says Mary Drzycimski-Finn, Student Research Colloquium coordinator. “More students are coming out to support their friends and to learn about research opportunities. It’s been wonderful to see.”

Ohio Northern has always valued student research, and many students who go on to graduate school report that the research experiences they had at ONU prepared them well, even giving them a leg up on their fellow students. ONU’s reputation for undergraduate research is known nationally as well. During the past nine years, ten ONU students have been named a Goldwater Scholar, the premier award for undergraduate researchers.

Both of ONU’s 2013 Goldwater Scholars presented posters at the colloquium this year, as did Zachary Dunn, Northern’s recipient in 2012. Morgan Hammer, a senior chemistry and mathematics double major, presented two posters, while Courtney Olson, a junior ACS chemistry major, presented at the colloquium for the first time.

“An event like this makes you feel important. You aren’t just in the lab working; people can see what you’ve done,” says Olson. “It’s also really helpful because you get to talk to professors from different disciplines who give you insight into your research that you may never thought of.”

Olson also credits the colloquium with giving valuable experience and confidence she’ll take with her when she presents her research at the national American Chemical Society (ACS) conference in Indianapolis next year.

Thomas Steinberger's research could one day change they way iPhones are made.

Thomas Steinberger, an applied physics and mathematics double major, presented at other conferences before participating in the colloquium this year.

“There is a greater sense of curiosity here,” he says. “For instance, at a physics conference, people are only interested in their particular area within physics. Here, students are asking me all sorts of questions about my research and how it could be applied.”

According to Drzycimski-Finn, one of the goals of the colloquium is to encourage younger students to attend and see first-hand “the scholarly expectations of students at Ohio Northern.” Steinberger noted that many younger students asked him for advice on how to get involved with undergraduate research. His answer is simple: get to know your professor.

“I’ve never heard of a professor turning down a student who wanted to do research with them,” he says.

Dr. Terry Sheridan didn’t. Steinberger asked the associate professor of physics if he could work with him. Their collaboration resulted in experimentation using dust to measure the thickness of the plasma sheath, research that could potentially be applied to the design and manufacture of iPhones or other electronic devices.

It’s the type of quality partnership that would make beta-pinene, methyl stearate and trityl borate proud.