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Released August 20, 2003


HATTIESBURG - Undergraduate students in polymer, materials and biomaterials science will get an opportunity to share their research with other students and faculty at the INSPIRE conference Oct. 16-18 at The University of Southern Mississippi.

To be held annually, the inaugural regional conference is open to undergraduate students throughout the Southeast; however, applications are being accepted from universities and colleges in other areas. INSPIRE - short for the Interstate Network of Science Programs Integrating Research and Education - will be devoted mostly to undergraduate student presentations and poster sessions.

"The INSPIRE conferences will spotlight the most creative and disciplined science undergraduates - those who've actually done the science," said Dr. Pollyanne Frantz, education and outreach coordinator in the Southern Miss School of Polymers and High Performance Materials.

To recognize excellence and stimulate further career development in these three sciences, cash prizes will be given for best research papers and posters.

Other scheduled events include a career and job fair, featuring industrial sponsors, talks by world-class scientists, professional development sessions on interviewing, resume preparation, career building and entrepreneurialism, and social activities designed to foster networking and collaborating.

Dr. Frantz said conference organizers would especially like to invite recent Research Experiences for Undergraduate (REU) participants throughout the country who have completed research projects in the three scientific areas. INSPIRE is a unique opportunity, Dr. Frantz said, because there are not that many conferences available nationwide for undergraduate students. "And if they do go, they are not necessarily able to give presentations and show their research to other students like they'll be able to do at this one," she said.

One student planning to attend the conference is Zachary Baeseman, a recent participant in the REU program this summer at Southern Miss. He said the conference, sponsored by Phi Kappa Phi and various industries such as BP Chemicals and Southern Ionics, is an excellent opportunity for undergraduates to get real exposure to the scientific world of research.

"It serves as a 'foot-in-the-door' for many undergraduates who lack conference and presentation experience," Baeseman said. "It should further add to their most recent research experiences."

Baeseman said he hopes to present his research to a substantial body of scientists who will challenge, critique and hopefully commend him for the undergraduate work he's done.

In addition to establishing Southern Miss' reputation as a leader in undergraduate research activities, the conference is a way to recruit top science students into programs in the university's College of Science and Technology, said Dr. Douglas Wicks, chair of the Southern Miss Polymer Science Department.

"Not only will this allow us to recruit students, but it will allow industries to interact with a diverse student population and recruit (bachelor of science) level scientists," Wicks said. "Industries can have a dialogue with faculty and students about issues of common interest and explore university-industry relationships."

The deadline for submitting oral presentation and poster abstracts is Aug. 31, although organizers are taking registration applications as late as Sept. 30. There are no registration fees, and qualified applicants may receive support for rooms, meals and travel expenses.

For more information about the INSPIRE conference, contact Dr. Pollyanne Frantz by phone at (601) 266-5047 or by e-mail at The conference Web site URL is


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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM