In Karen Guzman’s Introduction to Biology Research class, the final exam isn’t a traditional sit-down test.
For the past 18 years, Biology 205 students have been participating in a mock research presentation in lieu of a written exam. Today, students took over a hallway of the Campbell University Science Building to present a semester’s worth of study and analysis of the research topic of their choice.
The annual poster presentation day predates (and helped launch) the Wiggins Memorial Library Academic Symposium, which provides students with a similar forum for presenting research. But while symposium participants present for awards, Guzman’s students present with the knowledge that their performance will impact their grade. Scores are determined not only by how well they present the material, but how thoroughly they can discuss and describe it to professors and peers.
“The students in the course have spent the semester learning about biological research without a laboratory or field component,” Guzman said, “So although they did not perform the research that they will present, they must be able to explain the work as if it were their own.”
A total of 94 presentations adorned the hallways today as students took turns explaining their projects, which ranged in topic from the effects of stress on seahorses to using mouse models to treat symptoms of Huntington’s Disease. Many students have been studying these very specific research fields since the first week of the semester.
According to senior Kineseology major Anna Svanka, the key to not burning out while studying one topic for three months is simply finding one that fascinates you. Her project on exercise’s effect on gut microbiota helped her explore a passion for microbiology that she only discovered last semester.
“It might be too late to switch my major to biology,” she said, “but I am so glad I had the opportunity to study a field that I’m genuinely interested in.”
After studying the auditory responses of songbirds, sophomore Jessica Wakeman said that she prefers the flexibility and personalized nature of research to a written test despite the hard work.
“It definitely helped me understand how the research process works,” she said. “I want to be a veterinary oncologist. Understanding that process, learning to read scientific literature carefully and being able to confidently write up reports like these will help.”
Guzman said the students are often a bit apprehensive about the presentations at first, but that ultimately they feel empowered by their ability to explain to others what they’ve learned.
“I always invite faculty and staff to give the event the feel of a real research conference,” she said. “The enthusiasm of the guests leaves them with a sense of accomplishment.”