The Inaugural Undergraduate Research Conferences at the University of Guyana were held during the period April 10 -12, 2017 under the theme Dreaming undergraduate research, doing undergraduate research. This conference marked the first time that undergraduates from all disciplines across the university were able to interact and share their research at a single event.

The conference at the Tain (Berbice) campus included a single event which focused on research presentations by undergraduates whereas the conference at the Turkeyen campus included two event; one for faculty members and one for undergraduates.

Conference at Tain (Berbice)

The Inaugural Undergraduate Research Conference at Tain took place on April 12, 2017. It featured seventeen (17) oral presentations by students and these were done in four panels (two ran concurrently).

Keynote Speaker – Tain

The Keynote was given by Dr. Gyanpriya Maharaj (See Bio below) who delivered a riveting address on the importance of research and on her own work which focused on the butterfly ecology. Dr. Gyanpriya Maharaj, Director, Centre for the Study of Biological Diversity, Faculty of Natural Sciences, Turkeyen Campus, University of Guyana, is a professional Lepidopterist. Her butterfly research began over a decade ago, as a direct result of the mentoring and encouragement of Philip DaSilva (Tain Campus) and Calvin Bernard (Turkeyen Campus), and includes work on diversity, behavior, genetics, physiology and ecology of neo-tropical species, many of which are found in our own backyards. In addition to the University of Guyana, she has collaborated, as an entomologist, with the World Wild Life Fund, National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute, and the Missouri Botanical Gardens, Butterfly House. Some of her most notable contributions to butterfly literature was the publication of Guyana’s first butterfly identification manual (as part of a Darwin Initiative Project), ecology of butterflies of mid-Guyana, and most recently, passionflower butterflies foraging choices at sweet sage.

Dr. Maharaj graduated from the University of Guyana, with a BSc in Biology, from the University of Warwick, UK, with an MSc in Plant and Environmental Sciences and from the University of Missouri-St. Louis, USA with a PhD in Biology with focus areas, Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics and she was the recipient of the Arnold Grobman Prize, honoring a biology graduate student who has a primary interest in field biology, ecology, evolution, or behavior of animals and plants and maintained high academic standards, under the tutelage of Drs. Godfrey Bourne and Aimee Dunlap.

Conference at Turkeyen

The Inaugural Undergraduate Research Conference at the Turkeyen campus was held in the period April 10 -11, 2017 and as indicated above, it involved two events.

The first event was held on April 10, 2017 and it featured presentations by faculty members and the second event which was held the following day focused exclusively on research done by undergraduates.

The faculty event was the result of a collaboration between the Office for Undergraduate Research partnered and the then ongoing university-wide project – The University of Guyana Science and Technology Support Project – which was funded by the World Bank. Several faculty teams had received research grants through the project and the conference provided a forum for the teams to present their work. In total, there were presentations by ten (10) teams and fifty-five (55) persons attended.  Although the presentations did not focus on undergraduate research issues, the event was beneficial to undergraduate research given that it inspired inclusion of a faculty discussion component in the conference in subsequent iterations.

The second day of the inaugural conference at Turkeyen focused exclusively on research presentations by undergraduates. A total of thirty-seven (37) students made presentations (all oral) in six panels (three held concurrently). These presentations were attended by approximately one hundred and fifty-seven (157) persons.

Overall, the Inaugural Undergraduate Research Conferences (Turkeyen and Tain) was small but it represented an important start on a path to promoting undergraduate research across the university and providing a visible forum for students and faculty members to interact.

Kenote Speaker – Turkeyen

The Keynote for the Turkeyen conference was delivered by Professor Terrence Blackman. Professor Blackman, Dean of the School of Science, Health Technology, Medgar Evers College, City University of New York delivered the keynote address at the Turkeyen Campus.

Terrence Richard Blackman graduated Cum Laude with honors in mathematics from Brooklyn College in the City University of New York. He holds M.Phil and Ph.D. degrees, in mathematics, from The Graduate School of City University of New York. Dr. Blackman was born in Georgetown, Guyana. He is an old boy of the famed Guyanese high school, Queens College. Dr. Blackman is Dean of The School of Science, Health Technology at Medgar Evers College in the City University of New York. He is an Associate Professor of Mathematics and former Chair of The Department of Mathematics at Medgar Evers College. He is also a former Assistant Professor in The Department of Education Research Policy and Practice in the Morgridge College of Education at The University of Denver and a former Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Dr. Blackman’s research concerns aspects of the Jacquet Langlands correspondence in the Langlands Program. These investigations are, broadly speaking, number-theoretic. They involve ideas associated with harmonic and complex analysis and are related to Mark Kac’s famous question: Can you hear the shape of a drum? Dr. Blackman is also actively engaged in research on many issues which surround “Equity & Excellence” in the teaching and learning of mathematics in general and in Caribbean communities in particular. Most recently he has been focused on the challenges and opportunities of integrating the use of technology into institutions serving underrepresented students. He has presented his work at local, national and international conferences and published in journals in both mathematics and mathematics education and his work has been supported by the US Department of Education and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Dr. Blackman is a member of the American Mathematical Society (AMS). He is a member of the Society’s prestigious Committee on Science Policy. The Committee on Science Policy serves as a forum for dialogue about matters of science policy involving representatives of the Society, government and other interested parties; interacts with Federal agencies and policymakers; provides advice to the Society on matters of broad science policy; conducts periodic reviews of Society activities in areas of science policy; and selects those elements of AMS meeting programs which bear directly on policy questions that are within the purview of the Committee. He is also a member of The Mathematical Association of America (MAA) and The National Association of Mathematicians (NAM). He is a contributor to the Conference of African American Researchers in the Mathematical Sciences (CAARMS) and a member Mathematicians of the African Diaspora Editorial Board. Dr. Blackman is a frequent public speaker on issues related to student success in mathematics.

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