Research conference allows WKU students to showcase varied research

Christian Marnon

A record number of students took time to share their research with fellow students and faculty at the end of REACH Week with the 43rd Annual Student Research Conference.

The SRC on Saturday was the final culmination of REACH Week, which is dedicated to students who have engaged in research, creative endeavors and other scholarly activities at WKU.

This year’s event featured 320 presentations from more than 300 students and 151 faculty members, spanning 42 departments at WKU.

Of the participants, 72 were involved in the Honors College and 44 were from the Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science.

Gordon Baylis, vice president of research, spoke at the event and said he was proud of the student research.

“I’m overwhelmed by seeing all the things our students have done,” he said. “It’s humbling to me.”

Andrew Reeder, a graduate student who presented geological research, said the conference is a great opportunity for young students.

“REACH Week allows students to present their ideas to an open forum,” he said. “It’s good practice for younger students who don’t have experience presenting their ideas with practicum.”

Reeder said this is valuable experience in the academic world.

“Professionals do it all the time,” he said. “If you don’t have those experiences as an undergrad, you’re at a disadvantage.”

Joseph Islas, a geology instructor at WKU who served as a mentor for Reeder’s research, said he has been involved in the REACH SRC week since 2010.

“It’s grown up big,” he said. “We now have specialized programs that allow students to conduct research quicker.”

Presentation topics from graduate and undergraduate students were diverse, ranging from autism research, positional segregation in professional athletics, refugee accommodation to observing spectra through lasers of varying color.

Gordon Emslie, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, reflected this sentiment.

“Research is what you do, and scholarship is how you think about it afterward,” he said.

Before being admitted to the SRC, students were required to submit an abstract describing their research in no more than 850 characters.

Faculty members assisted students in writing abstracts, with all projects requiring oversight from an instructor in each department.

The event neared its conclusion with a speech delivered by Paul Simmons, an ordained Baptist minister and accomplished scholar in theology.

Simmons argued that it is possible to believe in God and Darwinian evolution simultaneously.

“You’re a lively, growing campus exposing students to every area of opportunity,” Simmons said.

Harrodsburg junior Austin Huff came to the conference to see several friends present.

“The REACH conference helps you to know what’s going on around campus,” he said. “It’s cool to see what your professors and classmates are involved in.”