After footing the bill to send two students to present papers at an undergraduate research conference in the south, Butler Biology Professor Jim Berry decided that the university needed to host its own event.
He founded the Butler Undergraduate Research Conference (URC) in 1989 “to encourage undergraduate students to become involved in research,” he wrote in the program. “We believe that the best way to teach science is by actually doing science. Only through the actual process of asking questions and solving problems can one become experienced in the methods of science.”
Today, Berry’s creation is stronger than ever: On April 13, from 8:00 AM to 4:15 PM, Butler will welcome 896 participants from 23 states to present their work at the 30th annual URC.
Berry, now Professor Emeritus, will be recognized at the luncheon, and Major Matthew Riley ’01 will deliver the keynote address. Riley is Department Chief at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, the Department of Defense’s lead laboratory for medical biological defense research.
In its first year, the URC that Berry created included 171 participants in five disciplines—Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Engineering, and Social Science—all of whom were from Indiana. The next year, Music Professor Jim Briscoe ushered in Music and Arts.
This year’s conference will feature presentations in 25 disciplines. Topics this year will be as varied as “Manufacturing: An Uncertain Future,” “Beyond Godzilla: Reflections of National Identity in Japanese Horror Films,” and “Can You Outsmart the ImPACT Test? A Study of Sandbagging on Baseline Concussion Assessments.”
“Because of Jim Berry’s hard work—and the hard work of other folks—we’re now one of the largest undergraduate research conferences in the nation,” said Dacia Charlesworth, Butler’s Director of Undergraduate Research and Prestigious Scholarships.
Under Charlesworth’s guidance, the URC has added research roundtables that allow students just embarking on their research projects to share their plans with experienced professionals and receive feedback and a competitive-paper division. This year, 28 students submitted competitive papers.
The Butler Collegian interviewed Berry about the URC in 1995. He described the conference then as “a district version of the big national conferences you always hear about. We’ve just brought it closer to home so that more students can take part.”
Charlesworth said that with 79 colleges and universities participating, the conference has expanded beyond what anyone expected.
“I’m happy we’re continuing Jim’s mission,” she said. “At the heart of it, we’re still fulfilling his original intention: Helping students understand research by conducting research.”
Marc Allan MFA ’18