By Alexis Jenkins
Celebrating their 30th anniversary, the Nation Conference on Undergraduate Research hosts over 4,000 presenters from colleges throughout the country.
Nine students participated NCUR April 7-9 in Asheville, North Carolina — the most students William Peace University has ever sent.
Three biology students, three English students and three psychology students presented their research.
“We’ve found a long standing tradition of sending students to this conference,” said Corinne Andersen, Ph.D., honors program coordinator and associate professor of English at WPU.
In order to participate in NCUR students’ chose a research topic, researched that topic and created an abstract. Once the students’ abstract was submitted, it went through a peer-reviewed process. If accepted, students would create a presentation; however, the students were not alone in their efforts as faculty sponsors helped decrease stress.
“Oh, it’s fantastic,” said Andersen. “So it’s very exciting to take a germ of an idea and see it come to a complete project.”
During NCUR, undergraduates’ presented a 15-minute presentation followed by a five-minute question and answer session.
Sydney Melchert, a senior and biology major at WPU, was one of the nine undergraduates who participated in NCUR.
“NCUR was a really great time,” said Melchert. “I enjoyed being surrounded by people who have been working hard all year, ready to show off everything they’ve been working on.”
Melchert and her partner Caroline Bergstrom presented their findings on PCB levels in Crabtree Creek which they had been working on since August 2015.
“I’ve been looking specifically at the skeletal muscle of catfish. I’ve been testing them for a dangerous chemical known as PCB,” said Melchert. “PCB is the main contaminant in Crabtree Creek and basically the goal of my research was to prove that the fish were not safe to eat and my research did prove that.”
PCBs are known to be a potential cancer risk and could also affect immune systems and cause a variety of diseases.
“We can’t directly say that people who are eating the fish are getting cancer because people don’t really know that these fish aren’t safe,” said Melchert. “But PCB’s are carcinogen [so] there is a chance that [it] could happen.”
Even though signs at Crabtree Creek say you can eat one catfish per month and be safe Melchert found PCB levels in every catfish’s skeletal muscle tested.
“We been trying to prove that it’s not safe so that’s what we found,” said Melchert. “But we’re glad we were able to get that knowledge out there to people.”