Heather Switzer ’18 had always wanted to do research but didn’t think she was “smart enough.” Anyone listening to her explain Pisano Periods—a concept from the challenging area of mathematics known as number theory— during Longwood’s first campuswide student research day would have disagreed.
Switzer presented her spring project in computer science, “Finding Periods of Linear Recurrence Relations,” on April 26, when all classes were cancelled and everyone’s attention was laser-focused on student research. More than 500 students participated in events throughout the day.
“Doing research made me feel great. I loved it,” said the computer science and mathematics major from Chester, who was encouraged to try her hand at research by Dr. Julian Dymacek, assistant professor of computer science. Organizers, who plan to make it an annual event, hope future research days will spark the same kind of interest in research among other students.
“Many students hear about research but think, ‘I could never do that.’ I want students to think, ‘I could do that,’” said Dr. Crystal Anderson, director of the Office of Student Research.
A meet-and-greet session provided insight into “the student behind the research” for those not presenting a project, said Anderson. It’s also good for the researchers because the more you talk about your research, especially with people from outside your discipline, the better researcher it makes you.”
A few days before the event, 49 PowerPoint presentations of research projects were made available on SlideShare, a slide-hosting service. The presentations attracted 3,695 views, an average of nearly 76 per project, over the next nine days.
“I was pleased by the number of views because that means their work went beyond Longwood, which tracks with the broad dissemination that professional researchers want,” said Anderson. “This will help students develop a research profile they can put on a website or LinkedIn. We want their research to provide long-term benefit.”
Organizers also were pleased that the event, an outgrowth of the Quality Enhancement Plan, attracted parents and off-campus visitors as well as students. In addition to posters, they enjoyed readings, music recitals, a clown show (from a theater class on clowning) and two art shows, all presented by students.
“We’re creating an opportunity for students to be part of an atmosphere that values research,” said Joanna Baker, assistant dean for academic services and college relations in the Cook-Cole College of Arts and Sciences. “This year’s event was a good foundation, and next year should be even better.”