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BYU undergraduate leading symposium at scientific conference

A Brigham Young University undergraduate has organized the first undergraduate symposium to be included as part of the Evolution 2005 conference (http://www.evolution05.uaf.edu/). This year's event is in Fairbanks, Alaska, June 10-14.

Cynthia Penaflor, an integrative biology major from Lima, Peru, is attending the meetings along with 10 other BYU students and several faculty members, including Keith Crandall, who has mentored her throughout the process. The group is funded by the Departments of Integrative Biology and Microbiology & Molecular Biology, BYU's Office of Research and Creative Activities, the Systematic Society of Biologists and the National Science Foundation. Penaflor raised about $15,000 for the symposium.

"Usually at these meetings you only see from 20 to 25 undergrads due to the limited funding and the limited number of students truly involved in this meeting," Penaflor said. "This summer at the evolution meetings, BYU will essentially lead the undergraduate participation of the meeting. This will reinforce BYU as one of the leading undergraduate research institutions."

The undergraduate symposium is named "Empowering the next generation of evolutionary biologists" and is sponsored by BYU as well as the University of Alaska Fairbanks. It will take place Saturday, June 11.

"Cynthia's symposium helps highlight the exceptional work being done not only by BYU undergraduates, but by undergraduates around the world," Crandall said. "The students will see how well their research stacks up to the community at large, not just other undergraduates. They will also have an opportunity to meet and discuss science, education and religion with the most prominent evolutionary biologists in the world today."

Each of the BYU students attending has his or her own poster to present at the symposium. Most of the presentations are funded by ORCA grants and cover subjects such as evolution, phylogenetics and systematics.

In addition to the poster presentations, Penaflor is bringing in speakers from the Smithsonian Institution, the National Science Foundation and several universities.

Penaflor herself is also speaking. Her presentation is named "Empowering the next generation of evolutionary biologists: publish or perish."

"I will speak about publishing as an undergraduate and other things students can do to empower themselves," she said. "This is about the future of evolutionary biology [and] empowering the next generation of evolutionary biologists."

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