OU to hold 2014 MASAL conference

The Michigan Academy of Science, Arts and Letters Annual Conference will be held on Friday, Feb. 28 in the Oakland Center and South Foundation Hall.

Independent researchers, professors and undergraduates will be presenting throughout the day on over  30 different disciplines, according to Dr. Graeme Harper, dean of the Honors College.

The conference is held at a different Michigan college or university each year, according to Harper. This is Oakland’s second time hosting the event.

“It’s a really well-established celebration of research and things in Michigan – science, arts and letters,” said  Harper. “It’s pretty much all varieties of stuff that people do in universities and colleges.”

Oakland will simply act as host for the academy’s event, but Harper said he and other faculty members will be planning a few events around it, such as recording interviews and sharing student and faculty research.


A first time for everything

One interview  Harper conducted was with Dr. Andrew Goldberg, associate professor of biomedical sciences.

 Goldberg will be presenting his research on rod and cone photoreceptor cells at this year’s conference with some of his students.

This is the first time Goldberg and his students will be participating in the conference, but Goldberg said he already sees the conference as a valuable experience for students.

“By presenting their lab research at a conference, undergrads can experience the original intent of high education,”  Goldberg wrote via email. “They begin to understand how ideas are revised over time, and how to distinguish authority based on expertise from authority based on status and position. For me, that’s the heart of healthy democracy and the real promise of higher education.”

It also helps students to develop important skills and relationships, Goldberg said.

“Conferences are places new ideas are being born, discussed, and revised, and there’s usually a real sense of adventure, excitement and fun that’s driving people to make sense of whatever they are working on,” Goldberg wrote. “All together, there may not be a better bang-for-the-buck for promoting teaching and learning.”

Research from Oakland students and faculty will be showcased in the Oakland Center the day before the conference, according to  Harper.

“Just to sort of say before we talk about research generally and have all those papers tomorrow… let’s think about all of the research going on around Oakland,” Harper said.


Researching and relationships

Harper said they are also having the conference’s keynote speaker, climate change expert Dr. Frederick E. Nelson, coming in Thursday Feb. 27th to speak to students.

“There’s a good tradition of Oakland students – as well as faculty – doing some really good presentations and research,” Harper said.

Robert Zielinski, a 2012 Oakland University graduate, received an award during last year’s conference for the most outstanding undergrad paper presented, according to Harper.

Goldberg said that while there are a few reasons he is at Oakland University, one of the factors that come in to play is the atmosphere created for students and faculty.

In his interview with Harper, Goldberg said he stays at Oakland because of “the administrative culture that recognizes the unique contributions nationally competitive research programs make to a campus that truly values teaching and learning in a higher education context.”

Harper said the fact that this is Oakland’s second year hosting the MASAL conference is proof that “this is the sort of stuff we’re good at doing.”

“A lot of institutions do research where the students can get involved, but they rarely have the sort of relationship that we have between professors and undergraduates in research,” said Harper. “Michigan Academy promotes that sort of stuff and that’s cool. It’s cool to have it here again to say, ‘Hey, so do we. We like this stuff.’”

Anyone can register online or on-site the day of the conference. Email Dr. Harper at [email protected] for more information.

Contact Staff Reporter Kaylee Kean at [email protected].