Undergraduate Symposium: Bourke

Shannon Bourke sets Undergraduate Symposium record

by Amy Bearinger, Published March 15, 2012

YPSILANTI - Many students have feelings of appreciation and accomplishment when looking back on their experience with the Undergraduate Symposium. Participation in this one-day celebration of academic undergraduate excellence is something students can keep with them for a lifetime.


This year's event will host one student in particular, who by the time the day is over, will have presented eight presentations over a span of four years - a record for the event.

Shannon Bourke, a senior and physics and astronomy major, enjoys reflecting on her Symposium past, but has found every year to be more exciting than the last.

"I am looking forward to putting my best foot forward and giving three spectacular presentations this year," Bourke explains. "I was very nervous my first few years (as a presenter), but now I feel like a true professional."

A professional she is. Over the past four years, Bourke has worked with five different faculty sponsors and two different departments. She has presented on a variety of topics including her first presentation that allowed her to relate her love for playing the flute to her newly selected major of physics. Bourke also worked on a project in which she began restructuring physics lab activities to promote a better understanding for students.

All of her projects and experiences have led up to this, Bourke's final year as a Symposium participant, where she will present three oral presentations.

Her first project titled, "Rewriting Physics Labs for Better Understanding of Physics Concepts II," will be a continuation of her initial research in this area with a desired outcome of drafting a new lab manual for the PHY 101 course. Bourke's ultimate goal is to show incoming students that physics is all around them and is not something that should be intimidating to learn. Session B, 11 a.m., Auditorium.

Bourke's second project this year is titled, "Interactive Lecture Demonstration for Faraday's Law and Lenz's Law." This will be her first time planning a lesson for a college level class. The presentation will highlight the designing of the project, a breakdown of the actual demonstration used within the lecture and finally a reflection of the success of the lesson as a whole. Session A, 8:30 a.m., Auditorium.

The third and final project Bourke will present this year is titled, "Nonlinear Curve Fitting (Linear Plus Exponential) for Magnetic Cooling Data." This project was a continuation of work Bourke started at a summer internship with NASA. When first approaching the project, Bourke quickly realized a connection between its elements and work she had completed in a math-modeling class. After leaving her internship, she and her math-modeling professor decided more work could be done to find a better fit for the data.  Bourke continued to work on the project and eventually turned it into her honor's thesis for her mathematics minor. Session C, noon, Room 204.

A lot can be said when reflecting on such a detailed history of engagement with the Undergraduate Symposium. Bourke sums it up best, however, making it clear that this experience is one that truly impacts someone for life. 

"I am more confident in my public speaking, I have learned the importance of time management, and I am no longer intimidated by the idea of working on and writing a thesis," Bourke said, "After you present at the Symposium and you see everything work out after all of the time, effort, struggle and sometimes even tears, it just feels so good."   

For more information about the Undergraduate Symposium and Bourke's presentations, please visit emich.edu/symposium.

Geoff Larcom



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