Early in the spring semester of my freshman year, Dr. Christopher Bailey, a William & Mary Geology Professor, invited me to join a group of undergraduate researchers on a field trip to the Blue Ridge of Western Virginia. Ever since, I have been fully committed to undergraduate research-a commitment that has defined my college experience. I am now in the last few months of my senior year, and five conferences and many field trips later, I have a thorough understanding of why William & Mary is the perfect place to get involved in this process. First, William & Mary has a comparatively small graduate program-granting many undergraduates an opportunity to work one-on-one with William & Mary faculty. Second, our small (11 to 1) student to teacher ratio provides ample opportunity to get to know your professors personally. Finally, William & Mary has some of the finest research minds in the business, in Arts and Sciences alike.
Last week, I traveled to Baltimore, MD with 12 other William & Mary undergraduates for the Joint Northeastern and Southeastern Section Geological Society of America Conference. At the conference, I presented a poster on research I had conducted in Casco Bay, ME last summer through a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates Program and gave a talk on the research I conducted for my senior thesis in the Geology Department at William & Mary. It turned out to be the culminating experience of my undergraduate research efforts. Although I was nervous before the conference began, I soon realized that each of the undergraduate researchers at the conference were well prepared to converse about, collaborate on, and debate about our efforts in a gathering dominated by professors, professionals, and graduate students. We were prepared because of the unique opportunity William & Mary provides to get started in research early and to interact with faculty often.
William & Mary supports undergraduate research in a variety of ways. Perhaps the most visible is the Charles Center, which provides hundreds of thousands of dollars to student researchers each year. In addition, William & Mary has world class research facilities like the newly built Integrated Science Center, the newly renovated Physics Lab in Small Hall, the off-campus marine science facilities at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, and even Swem Library, which has never let me down when I ask for a publication on a ridiculously obscure geological topic. Although the work is at times trying, I am really glad I took that trip to the Blue Ridge.
–Drew Laskowski, W&M 2010