Lipscomb students make debut at 31st annual National Conference on Undergraduate Research last month

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For the first time in university history, a group of five Lipscomb University students and one alumnus participated in the 31st annual National Conference on Undergraduate Research, a prestigious undergraduate conference that was held at the University of Memphis, April 6-8.

Nearly 4,000 undergraduate students from various universities gave paper and poster presentations at the annual conference that is held by the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) and is strongly committed to the wide expression of all forms and topics of undergraduate research and creativity.

“CUR’s programs, including its signature student research conference, the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR), serve as ‘home’ for all champions and practitioners of undergraduate research, scholarship, and creative inquiry,” said Elizabeth Ambos, CUR’s Executive Officer.

Jonathan Atalla, (’17) a former biology student Bria Harris, a rising senior studying biology; Gracia Amaya, a senior biology student; Morghan Jameson; (’17) a former biology student; Daniel Del Basto (’16) a former political science major; and Richard Finch, a senior English; presented a variety of topics including: “Preoperative Indicators of Index Hospitalization Death in LVAD Patients,” “Sunitinib Metabolism and Implications for Drug-Induced Liver Damage,” “How Dictionaries Reflect Cultural Trends in Language from Johnson to the Urban Dictionary,” and “The Pro-Angiogenic Mechanism, Migration-Neutral Effect of the Di-Peptide LQ,” among others.

Florah Mhlanga, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, serves as the institutional liaison for Lipscomb’s CUR membership, and says not only was it an honor to have Lipscomb students participate in such a prestigious conference, she was elated to see how they grew in their knowledge depth as a result of this experience. With support from the Provost, Dr. Craig Bledsoe, Lipscomb’s Enhanced Institutional CUR membership was granted in July 2014. 

“This was a wonderful, well-organized conference,” said Mhlanga. “Our Lipscomb students were very professional, poised and competent during their presentations, and I felt like they had a deeper conceptualization and deeper understanding of their own fields and the projects they were working on. It was a beautiful thing to experience as a faculty member to look at these young students answering questions so confidently with so much professionalism.”

Mhlanga, who came to Lipscomb in 2011, is strong proponent of undergraduate research and creativity, and says she wants to see Lipscomb University continue to be intentional in advancing and expanding undergraduate research and creativity on- and off-campus. Therefore, together with a team of faculty members from various Lipscomb colleges, Mhlanga coordinates the Student Scholars Symposium each year. The Student Scholars Symposium is an annual academic conference that is open to all students and is designed to give students an opportunity to showcase their scholarship, creative works and research findings in a professional setting. The first annual Student Scholars Symposium was hosted in March 2012 and featured 51 students and 35 abstracts. Today, the symposium has grown to more than 150 abstracts submitted and 270 student presentations.

On April 13, Atalla, Harris, Amaya, Jameson and Finch also presented their work at Lipscomb’s sixth annual Student Scholars Symposium.

“The Student Scholars Symposium reflects the quality, creativity, and range of research produced by students at Lipscomb. I am most proud of the fact that the Student Scholars Symposium is now not only a tradition at Lipscomb but a growing one,” said Bledsoe in the Student Scholar Symposium program. “I am also delighted to see the diversity of talent and voices reflected in the growing number of presentations in the creative arts. This speaks to the vitality of our academic programming. I appreciate the work of the faculty committee and the leadership of Dr. Florah Mhlanga in putting together such a vibrant and inviting program.”

For more information regarding the NCUR visit: To learn more about Lipscomb’s Student Scholars Symposium, which is housed in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, visit: