Indiana State University Newsroom

Students to present environmental research at national conference

March 5, 2012

Switching majors from chemistry to earth and environmental systems proved to be a successful decision for Nicole Terrell.

Thriving in her classes and conducting research for the department, the Indiana State University junior is preparing to present her research at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, the largest undergraduate research forum in the nation in Ogden, Utah at the end of March.

Terrell, from Bedford and also majoring in language studies with a concentration in Latin, will be giving a poster presentation on "Impacts of Coal Mining on Soil Phosphorus Reservoirs: Results from the Abandoned Friar Tuck Mine Site, Sullivan County, Indiana" - research that she has been working on for nearly two years.

"I was told that only so many were accepted, and I'm the first one from ISU to be accepted to this conference," said Terrell. "I was really excited."

Terrell's research examines the role of phosphorus in plant growth and how the biogeochemical cycling of the phosphorus in the soil has been altered by the mining and reclamation process.

Laura Major, a senior chemistry major from Roachdale, assisted with the research and will be co-presenting at the conference.

Jennifer Latimer, Terrell's advisor and associate professor of geology, helped develop an abstract for the research. Chosen from more than 3,500 submissions, Terrell and Major will present their work in front of peers, faculty and scientists from around the world.

"Participating in national conference like NCUR is a way for students to gain experience presenting their research to a broad audience and network with potential graduate advisers," said Latimer.

"You have to be able to explain to people, whether they're chemists or physicists or just everyday people," said Terrell. "You have to be able to explain it in a way that everybody understands."

Terrell thinks the opportunity to present will help her public speaking skills, as well as further her learning.

"I hope that it will just give me a little bit more confidence and give me the experience of presenting in that atmosphere of being in a strange place and still knowing what I'm doing," said Terrell.

Though she is interested in working with abandoned mine sites after graduation, Terrell is open to possibilities and only has one stipulation.
"I'd like to work outside," she said.

Latimer acknowledged the benefits that Terrell's presentation could bring to Indiana State.

"Participating in meetings like this also provide advertisement for our own graduate programs at ISU," she said. "If other students find Nicole and Laura's research interesting, they may look into ISU for a similar research project for graduate school. This also provides recognition that our students are performing high quality research."

Terrell's research began within the SURE program, or Summer Undergraduate Research Experience, where students apply concepts and lab skills while working closely with professors on research. It is also the reason Terrell decided to change her major.

"I read through the options and different areas that you could work in," said Terrell. "I've always loved the environment...I chose that one, and after working in that lab, I love the work that I do."

"In my mind, the SURE Program is an ideal opportunity for students like Nicole," said Latimer. "As a result of applying what she had learned in classes and developing new ideas based on her research, she has become a much more confident and successful student. I think she has a bright future ahead of her."

Nicole Terrell and Laura Major

Writer: Mallory Metheny, media relations assistant, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3773

Contact: Jennifer Latimer, associate professor of geology, department of earth and environmental systems, Indiana State University, 812-237-2254 or