Cultivating Wisdom

Penn hosts the inaugural Ivy League Undergraduate Research Symposium.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

By Blake Cole

This November, Penn hosted the inaugural Ivy League Undergraduate Research Symposium (ILURS), which brought together approximately 200 students from across the Ivy League. The event, sponsored in part by Penn's Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships (CURF)—which helps Penn undergraduates pursue independent research through personal research consultations and administration of competitive research grants—provided distinguished undergraduate researchers with opportunities to present their research, network with other scholars, learn about post-graduate opportunities, and converse with professors and research professionals.

While the symposium focuses on undergraduate research, it simultaneously connects some of the brightest young minds across the Ivy League. "The symposium turned out to be a monumental success,” says Anuj Amin, Executive Director of ILURS. “Throughout the weekend, we were able to introduce students to a number of different graduate programs and potential Ph.D. advisors. Ultimately, through the connections and support which ILURS provides to its attendees, we hope that our symposium will serve as a resource to its attendees throughout their academic careers."

ILURS embraces an interdisciplinary approach to research, from religious studies to biology to astrophysics. Amin says that the coming together of these disparate academic fields creates a powerful dialogue that doesn’t often occur between Ivy League universities. In coming years, the ILURS council hopes to strengthen this dialogue with a dedicated publication, the Ivy League Undergraduate Journal of Research, as well as a research fund.

The event featured keynote speakers Paul Sniegowski, Professor of Biology and Stephen A. Levin Family Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and Richard Leventhal, Professor of Anthropology. Other notable speakers included Peter S. Fader, the Frances and Pei-Yuan Chia Professor of Marketing at the Wharton School, and Jonathan Epstein, Executive Vice Dean and Chief Scientific Officer for the Perelman School of Medicine. The event also offered workshops that connected students and alumni from across the Ivy League.

The core aspect of the event—undergraduate research—was encapsulated in the poster and plenary sessions, which featured well over 100 presentations and included student research from all corners of the Ivy League. Penn’s Noah Katcher, C’19, presented on “Inequality and Political Extremism: An Analysis of the 2017 Election Cycle in France and the Netherlands,” and Penn’s Rani Richardson, C’18, discussed “Learning Ability Affects Fecundity Levels in Drosophila.” Research from other Ivies included subjects like the global history of Japanese Brazilians and shaping the solar system.

"Founding ILURS had been a true culmination of my research experience as an undergraduate," says Amin, noting that the initiative would not have been possible without the support of Ann Vernon-Grey, the Associate Director of Undergraduate Research at Penn. "I still have a few ideas as to how we can expand and strengthen this dialogue to reach as many young researchers as we possibly can in the coming years. Having spoken to each of our attendees, I was thrilled to hear all of the new connections our attendees had made, as it is my core belief that these students will be the academic pioneers of tomorrow."