This fall, we mark the 30th annual Murdock College Science Research Conference. In honor of this milestone, we have taken an opportunity to hear from some faculty members who have participated in the conference for several years and hear why they believe this event is so valuable to our local institutions and students.
One of the most important aspects of a successful science education for Dr. David Patrick, the Vice Provost for Research and Dean of the Graduate School at the Western Washington University Chemistry Department, is connection.
“Students need to see how the work they are doing connects to the broader scientific community,” he explained in a recent conversation with the Murdock Trust. “They need to see how their research will be applied in the real world. They also need to build connections with other researchers and colleagues. Science does not happen in a vacuum and those relationships are critical to their success later on.”
Both of those needs can be particularly challenging to students at smaller schools in rural communities. Students at larger universities or metropolitan schools may find it easier to make connections with other research facilities, but rural institutions can be a bit more isolated. What’s more, when students attend professional research conferences, they can often be treated as an afterthought with priority given to the established professionals.
Dr. Patrick shares that this is one of the reasons why he has found the MCSR Conference to be so valuable through the years.
“First and foremost, students have an opportunity to connect with colleagues from around the region and the nation,” he shares. “They have an opportunity to share ideas, see what work is underway at other institutions, and really start to understand the ecosystem of professional research.”
The experience is also tailored to fit the unique needs of students.
“The entire event is centered on the students,” he adds. “I take students to a variety of conferences around the country each year which all have their benefits, but this is a rare event that is designed specifically for them. Professional conferences of course have to focus on the established professionals and there is incredible value in attending and observing those events, but there is something unique about being the group that gets to present and speak and be heard.
“Overall, I’d say MCSR is the best conference for undergraduate scientific research in the Pacific Northwest right now.”