Publishing in Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Research Journal Prepares Students for the Future 



Eight years ago, Kate Bruce, UNCW professor of psychology and director of the Honors College, became the editor-in-chief for Explorations, the journal of undergraduate research and creative activities for the state of North Carolina. This year, for volume XI of the journal, a large number of UNCW students have been published, alongside the work of students from participating universities across the state. Going through the publishing process at such a young age is, according to Bruce, an invaluable experience for future researchers.

Explorations is the companion journal of the State of North Carolina Undergraduate Research and Creativity Symposium. The 2016 symposium was held Nov. 5 at North Carolina Central University in Durham and featured more than 400 student presentations, including those by 23 UNCW students.

Several UNCW students are also being featured in the latest volume of Explorations. UNCW student authors include: Walter Kearnan, Sydney Bohn, Evan Hill, Derek Detweiler, Samantha Farquhar, Brian Gottwalt and Christine Zuelsdorf. Student work for the journal is reviewed by a jury of professors from across the state in a peer-review process. This jury offers students a unique opportunity to revise their work before publication so they can understand the difference in the quality of publishable research.

“It is a significant accomplishment for an undergraduate student to be the author of an empirical paper,” said Bruce. “UNCW students have some incredible opportunities to disseminate their high-quality work.”

Bruce has received testimonies from previous students that publishing their work in Explorations was invaluable for their professional careers. Rather than publish each student’s final research paper, as many undergraduate research journals do, the jury behind the journal strives to make sure admitted work adds new insight to the knowledge base. As long as the work meets all of the qualifications, Bruce said, it does not matter what year the student is in school. Explorations has published students ranging from seniors to freshmen, even publishing advanced high school students from the North Carolina School of Science and Math.

Among one of the UNCW students published in the latest issue is Derek Detweiler ’16 in the Oceanography and Marine Biology programs. Detweiler’s paper was entitled “An in situ study of seasonal dissolved organic carbon and nutrient fluxes from a Spartina alterniflora salt marsh in North Carolina, USA.” His mentor was Ai Ning Loh, associate professor in the earth and ocean sciences department.

“I feel very accomplished that my paper has been published,” said Detweiler. “To have a polished piece of work available for the world to see is very satisfying. My experience with Explorations has allowed me to polish my writing and communication skills for future work that I do. I hope to work as a research scientist for an organization such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or the National Park Service to publish research and communicate science to various audiences. I think it is safe to say that one will see my name on future peer-reviewed research papers.”

After eight years, Bruce will be stepping down as the journal’s editor-in-chief.

“It’s something I’ve done on a volunteer basis,” she said. “I hope someone else picks it up. It’s been exciting to see our North Carolina students push themselves to this publishing level. It’s a wonderful outlet for our state to support, and I know it’s been good for UNCW.”

-- Caitlin Taylor ’18M