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Welcome to Undergraduate Research at Keene State College

Undergraduate Research takes many forms and can look different from discipline to discipline. For example, in the arts, it might mean engaging in the creative process to produce new works that reflect and comment on the human condition, like making a film.

In the physical sciences it might mean working in a laboratory. In the social sciences it might mean conducting observational or survey work. In the humanities it might mean critically reading a body of work and synthesizing it in a new way - offering a new understanding on a theme or topic, or perhaps uncovering the relevance of previously under-appreciated archival materials.

In the professions, it might mean designing innovative products, collecting and analyzing physiological data aimed at improving health, or carrying out research to inform public policy.

ALL of these activities are forms of undergraduate research. Though they look different, what they all have in common is the spirit of discovery, innovation, and creativity - the production of one's own original scholarship.

Why Participate? Ask our students!

John Gibbons ('05) | PhD Candidate, Vanderbilt University

John Gibbons ('05)
John Gibbons ('05)
My undergraduate research project was undoubtedly the most valuable experience I left Keene State College with. As my undergrad career progressed, it became evident that my academic passion revolved around biological laboratory classes; from studying the genetic inheritance of traits in fruit flies, to observing the maternal behaviors of domestic mice.

From here, I was interested in developing an independent project where my specific interests could shape my research questions. During the last three semesters of my undergraduate study I initiated an independent study under the guidance of Dr. Kristen Porter-Utley. The goal of our research was to investigate the population biology of Polygala paucifolia, a plant which possesses multiple modes of sexual and asexual reproduction.

The study consisted of both field work (in which I traveled across New Hampshire searching for populations of P. paucifolia) as well as laboratory work and provided me with an appreciation for the time and planning required for successful research. I gained more from this experience than any lecture or laboratory class could offer. During this process I acquired a multitude of important tools including experimental design, grant writing, data analysis and an abundance of molecular biology techniques.

After graduating, I utilized this skill set during my time as a research technician at Millennium Pharmaceuticals and the Broad Institute and currently as a PhD candidate in the Biological Sciences department of Vanderbilt University. Undergraduate research at Keene State College gave me the knowledge and skills to succeed and grow professionally, personally and academically and was an invaluable portion of my undergraduate education which I look back on fondly.

Adam Berube (KSC '07) | Choreographer, as seen in the studio at KSC

Adam Berube (KSC ’07)
Adam Berube (KSC '07)
As a student and graduate of the Theater and Dance program at Keene State College, I capitalized on the vast amount of performance and production opportunities that were provided for me. I not only danced in 5 Evening of Dance concerts but also took part in the one-act plays, worked backstage on a number of shows and also choreographed extensively, where I worked very closely with other students and the dance faculty.

I was fortunate enough to have two of my choreographic endeavors showcased while at KSC. One piece, "On These Pages" was the 2005 recipient of the Hildebrandt award for research in Holocaust studies and the second, "Haute Couture" was a Modern Dance VI final that was chosen to be performed for An Evening of Dance and presented for academic achievements at the KSC 2007 Academic Excellence Conference.

I also had the incredible opportunity to design and create the costumes for "Haute Couture", which were used during the Evening of Dance performances. Today, I am continuing my work the arts, teaching a Modern Dance appreciation class at a small university in Southern California, where I have also been commissioned to create a modern dance piece focused around social justice and hunger in America.

And just recently, I have returned back to my theater roots and co-directed and choreographed "Urinetown" for a local high school. Without the extensive training and many creative and artistic opportunities KSC offered me, and the invaluable relationships I have built with my previous advisors and professors, I would not be as successful as I am today.

Elizabeth Georgian (KSC '08) | Graduate Student, University of Wisconsin, Madison

At Keene State College students are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work closely with professors on undergraduate research projects. Doing undergraduate research allows motivated students to learn skills they wouldn't necessarily learn in class, while providing you with the experience needed to continue with education or find a great job. Plus, undergraduate research is fun!

I did undergraduate research studying the relationships in a small group of passionflowers with Dr. Kristen Porter-Utley. The techniques I learned and the experiences that I gained from Dr. Porter-Utley are invaluable. This research opened many doors; for example, the opportunity to write grants, to travel to Canada for a conference, and a chance for further learning during the summer. I am currently starting my first year of graduate school at the University of Wisconsin Madison. Participating in undergraduate research certainly helped me reach this level.

Elizabeth and Dr. Kristen Porter-Utley
Elizabeth and Dr. Kristen Porter-Utley

Elizabeth Neuhardt (KSC '10) | Keene State College Chemistry Major

If you are interested in a career in science it is very important to become involved in undergraduate research. There are so many opportunities that present themselves to you, whether it is building connections with students and professors at other institutions or becoming a co-author on a scientific paper or poster, all of these things will help you in the future.

Every year I attend at least one American Chemical Society meeting at which I present a poster describing my current research. The poster sessions are a chance for scientists to network, collaborate and socialize. There are also numerous opportunities to speak with graduate school recruiters at the ACS meetings. Being able to talk with seasoned chemists about their areas of interest is so exciting because they are enthusiastic about their own research, which only makes my anticipation for graduate school grow.

The American Chemical Society offers many resources to under graduate students, most of which I would not have been exposed to if it were not for my involvement in research. There are so many opportunities right now for American students that are interested in science and one of the best ways to increase your chances of being accepted into a PhD or masters program is to do undergraduate research. Research expresses a student's ability to think independently and to collaborate at the same time.

There are skills that you learn in a laboratory that cannot be taught in a classroom. Many of the skills I have learned over the last few years I acquired from Dr. Colin Abernethy. Working in Dr. Abernethy's research laboratory has proved to be an exciting and valuable experience. It is a rewarding experience to do a successful reaction in the laboratory and see the principles that I am learning in my major classes applied in real situations. These skills and experiences I will take with me for the rest of my career.

Elizabeth was a 2009 recipient of the James Flack Norris/Theodore William Richards Summer Research Scholarship.

Elizabeth Neuhardt
Elizabeth Neuhardt

Angie Muzzy (KSC '08), | Artist

Keene State College allowed me the opportunity to flourish in my creative endeavors. I was fortunate to work closely with Dance Department faculty Marcia Murdock and William Seigh on two independent studies. The first independent study focused on creating a self produced concert by learned creative process techniques that I gained from attending Bates Dance Festival in Lewiston, ME.

The second independent study had two facets, working with an established choreographer who set a piece with me and writing my artist statement. From this work I have interned at Jacob's Pillow Dance, in Becket, MA and at The Yard in Chilmark, MA. I have been a guest teacher and choreographer at Northfield Mount Hermon School and Williston Northampton School.

I am currently a guest artist at the Hillsboro-Deering Middle School where I help 7/8th grade students create dances using plate tectonics as a source for movement material. With the support and generosity of wonderful faculty and the ability to have my idea's implemented, I am where I want to be; teaching, creating and dancing.

Andrew Consiglio (KSC '08) | Research Associate, Bio-fuel industry

Of everything that I learned during my years as an undergrad, the concepts and laboratory skills Dr. Launen taught me as part of my independent study was without a doubt the most important. I am now a research associate with a bio-fuel company and the reason I was offered the position was directly related to the independent study work that I was able to perform with her advising.

Yes, there were comments about my grades and some extracurricular activities, but the focus during my interview process was the research that I had done. Since I had laboratory experience, I was able to discuss keeping a notebook, experimental design, and proper lab practices. I proved that I was not only knowledgeable in the subject area, but that I was also competent and proficient in the laboratory. Without these laboratory skills, I know that I would not have been offered that position.

I am now at a point where I am learning more and doing more than I ever thought I would be doing at this stage of my career and I credit a majority of that success to Dr. Launen and the research that she helped me carry out at Keene State.

Cynthia (Magnuson) Stevens (KSC '08) | Graduate Student, Green Lab, Dartmouth College

In my senior year as an undergraduate biology major at Keene State College, I had the opportunity to embark on an independent study with Dr. Loren Launen. My project was identifying bacterial species from the college compost pile and the Ashuelot River that the Microbiology lab class had isolated.

I learned many things important in biological research that are more advanced than what is taught in normal laboratory classes. Dr. Launen offered me valuable insight into research and laboratory science that has been exceptionally meaningful in my ongoing graduate school career. Among many things, she taught me proper technique, critical thinking, and effective scientific communication. I had the ability to present my first academic poster at the Keene State College Academic Excellence Conference that spring.

Nicolle Siddall (KSC '10) | Biology Major

I was a late biology bloomer. When beginning my undergraduate biology career I knew immediately that I wanted to go to graduate school. My advisor, Dr. Kristen Porter-Utley, suggested that a student with such demanding motivation should participate in undergraduate research. My junior year was spent in her lab using molecular sequence data to reconstruct the evolutionary history of a group of tropical plants called 'Passionflowers.' In July 2009 I presented my research at the Botany and Mycology conference in Snowbird, Utah.

The summer before my senior year, I received a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation and participated in a biochemistry internship under the supervision of Dr. Duane Compton at Dartmouth Medical School. I measured and localized kinetochore proteins in cancer cell lines. During this program I presented at The Leadership Alliance Conference in Washington D.C. and at Dartmouth's own summer showcase poster session.

Conducting research at Keene State College brings you places. Dr. Porter-Utley's constant support and guidance has motivated and inspired me to continue research in the sciences. After graduation in May 2010 I am planning to work in the Boston area as a research or lab technician to gain more experience and to find the specific cellular biology field I feel passionate for.

Nicolle Siddall
Nicolle Siddall

Erika Brooks, (KSC '10) | Biology Major

When I transferred to Keene State my sophomore year of college I was introduced to Dr. Kristen Porter-Utley who has been studying the evolutionary relationships of passionflowers. She saw my undiscovered potential as a research scientist and offered me a position in her laboratory. After having an upper-level microbiology class with Dr. Loren Launen, she asked me to be a teaching assistant for the microbiology class the following year. I worked closely with Dr. Launen and assisted in development of different lab exercises for students. In addition to what I have learned about research I have also learned much about myself and my scientific interests.

Research is crucial to an undergraduate experience, not only to learn research techniques, but to also improve networking skills. Conducting research provides students with opportunities to present at conferences, such as the Academic Excellence Conference (AEC) at Keene State. In addition to presenting at the AEC, I was given the opportunity to present my work on the evolutionary relationships of Passionflowers at an international conference, Botany and Mycology 2009 in Snowbird, UT. I was also able to present a microbiology lab design at the American Society for Microbiology conference in Cromwell, CT. These conferences have enabled me to network with professionals from all over the country.

Through the various research projects I have worked on, I have decided I would like to continue in the field of research after graduating in May 2010. I am planning on working as a research technician in either a biotechnology or microbiology laboratory. Keene State is a great college to do research because of the one-on-one interactions students are able to have with their mentors and advisors. This gives students a huge advantage in the graduate school and employment market.

Erika Brooks
Erika Brooks

Anna P. McLean (KSC '11) | Biology Major

I am a junior biology major and I have been working under Dr. Kristen Porter-Utley since May of 2009. She has been studying the evolutionary relationships of passionflowers since she was in graduate school. At Keene State, we are trying to resolve these relationships using target gene sequences to construct evolutionary trees. Major techniques used in this research include polymerase chain reaction (PCR), cycle sequencing, DNA extraction, use of sequence analysis software, and much more.

This research opportunity has shown me an entirely new aspect of academia. The experience has shaped my ideas about career options and has awakened my interest in new areas of science. The skills I have learned doing undergraduate research will benefit me in any discipline of the biological sciences I decide to pursue.

Research is an essential part of undergraduate education, especially in the sciences. Research provides students with a wide range of skills, such as grant writing, laboratory techniques, time management, and the ability to work closely with other students and faculty. Many research students have the opportunity to present their work at various conferences, such as the Academic Excellence Conference here at Keene State, or discipline-specific conferences around the country.

Working closely with faculty members is a great experience. We are lucky enough to have small classes here at KSC, which allows students and faculty to get to know one another fairly well and develop close bonds. Faculty research advisors are not only daily mentors and academic advisors for their research students, but they know their students well enough to write outstanding recommendations for graduate school or employment. Many undergraduates from larger institutions do not have these personal relationships, which gives research students from small schools (like KSC) a huge advantage in the graduate school and employment market.

Anna McLean
Anna McLean

Have a student story to contribute? Please contact Susan Ericson-West.


Updated: July 26, 2010 KSC Photos on SmugMug Subscribe to the KSC RSS news feed Keene State on Facebook Keene State on Twitter Keene State on YouTube

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