Northeastern Section (45th Annual) and Southeastern Section (59th Annual) Joint Meeting (13-16 March 2010)

Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 3:00 PM


FARTHING, Dori J., Department of Geological Sciences, SUNY-Geneseo, 1 College Circle, Geneseo, NY 14454,

Undergraduate-driven research is at the heart of a seminar course taught by the Department of Geological Sciences at SUNY Geneseo. This required capstone course allows students to pursue a research question and also provides an arena for professional skills to be nurtured and honed. The seminar course spans the length of an entire academic year and usually focuses upon a specific geographical location. This is because part of the seminar experience is a departmental fieldtrip, which takes place every other year. In non-trip years, students may pursue any topic of research. All students begin their seminar work with a literature review that creates a foundation for their final research project. The information that they find is presented to the department as a professional-style talk and also as a written abstract. In trip years, these abstracts are essential components of the field guide for the two-week intersession trip. While out in the field, students learn and apply field techniques and also identify the research question that they will pursue. These research questions usually require the collection of samples and field measurements. Students bring these materials back to campus, design their research plan, and investigate and interpret their data during the spring semester. Students present their findings to Geological Sciences department, to the greater campus community, and sometimes at national meeting as oral and poster presentations.

Not only does this capstone seminar provide a forum for student-driven research, it also serves as an arena for the department to nurture students' professional skills. In particular, oral presentations markedly improve over the span of the course due in large part to the constructive critique discussion that takes place after each presentation.