January 30, 2009

Undergraduate research is a big part of the educational experience for many students in the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. A unique program at the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort recognizes some of the best undergraduate research in the state during the annual "Posters at the Capitol" program. This year's posters will be on display Feb. 5.

Nineteen students were chosen from UK, and five were from the College of Agriculture.

"For students, undergraduate research affords an opportunity to work collaboratively with faculty and peers, to participate directly in the creative process and the generation of knowledge, to experience the rewards of inquiry-based learning and to expand upon the lessons learned in the classroom," UK President Lee T. Todd, Jr. wrote in the "Posters at the Capitol" program. "Through undergraduate research, students experience personally the intellectual passion that is the foundation of scholarship at the University of Kentucky."

Todd went on to say that for faculty, there is no more rewarding teaching opportunity than to serve as a mentor for an eager young mind. The goals that inspire faculty and establish teaching as one of the truly noble professions include opportunities to excite imagination, foster curiosity and celebrate the values of academic scholarship. Supervision of undergraduate research and creative projects maximize those kinds of teaching opportunities, he said.

Jeffrey Bewley, faculty member in the College of Agriculture's animal and food sciences department, was a mentor to Rebecca Russell. Her poster was chosen for display. Bewley believes it's an incredible honor for Russell and her peers to be chosen for this distinction.

"Rebecca's particular project, ‘A Survey of the Management Practices, Educational Needs, and Decision-making Behavior of Kentucky Dairy Producers,' is a great example of the three goals of a land grant university," he said. "Through her project, she explored the teaching, extension and research relationship between UK and the state's dairy producers."

Bewley said Russell's project had real-world applications and the results will provide much needed information for UK Cooperative Extension's programming efforts.

Other UK College of Agriculture students chosen for "Posters at the Capitol" were:

1.    Mark Adams - "Molecular Elucidation of Carabid Beetle Foraging Behavior in Alfalfa." Adams' faculty mentor is UK Entomologist James Harwood, who said Adams' research has enhanced understanding of the complex, and often coupled, dynamic interactions between predators and their prey, and provides valuable information for the uses of carabid beetles in the management of invasive pests in Kentucky.

2.      Taylor Amerman -"Student Community Involvement." Amerman's faculty mentor is Lori Garkovich in the college's community and leadership department. Amerman said she hopes to better understand the factors influencing the participation of college students in community service activities and to estimate the value of their work.

3.    Christina Kuchle -"Effects of an Invasive Species, Bush Honeysuckle, on Leaf Decomposition in Central Kentucky." Kuchle's faculty mentors are Forest Ecologist Mary Arthur and former forestry post-doctoral scholar Ryan McEwan. Kuchle said the experiment was designed to examine the influence of bush honeysuckle on leaf litter decomposition in a forested site at Griffith Woods, located in the Inner Bluegrass physiographic region.

4.    Lesley Mann -"In situ Protein Localization in Endophytic Fungi during Benign Plant Colonization and Stromata Development." Mann's faculty mentor is Christopher Schardl, professor in the college's plant pathology department.

General viewing for "Posters at the Capitol" begins at 11 a.m. and lasts until 3:30 p.m. EST.  A formal welcome will take place in the Capitol rotunda at 11 a.m. with comments from invited guests and a brief address by Gov. Steve Beshear at 11:25. The day also affords an opportunity for students to meet with their legislative leaders and have their picture taken with other undergraduate scholars from the state's public universities.