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March 13, 2008

Fifteen Georgia high school seniors got a preview of the available undergraduate research options at UGA when they were recognized as 2008 Promising Scholars by the Honors Program's Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities.

The students, honored by CURO for their scholastic achievements, were invited to UGA for a two-day program, which included attending the 2008 CURO symposium, held in the spring at The Classic Center in downtown Athens. More than 200 UGA students presented their research projects at the annual undergraduate research symposium.

"CURO Promising Scholars are heavily recruited by top colleges and universities across the country, including UGA," said Pamela Kleiber, associate director of the Honors Program, who coordinates the CURO programs. "The experience of attending the CURO symposium and meeting current UGA students who are doing research with our premier faculty usually tips the scales toward their decision to come to UGA with a CURO apprenticeship and admission to the Honors Program."

This is the fourth year that the Promising Scholars Program has been in place at UGA.

"Promising Scholars has become a key part of our overall recruitment strategy," said David S. Williams, director of the Honors Program. "We are able to meet top students early in their careers-even before they come to UGA-and help guide them to the right faculty mentors once they are here. As a result, they have been very successful doing important research across campus."

Panel discussions with UGA faculty from the life sciences, social sciences and humanities were part of the activities. These selected faculty mentors introduced the Promising Scholars and their parents to the rigors and expectations of the undergraduate research experience, including the advantages of becoming involved with research as early as possible in college.

Dakia McCray, a political science and international affairs major from Lithonia, relayed her CURO apprentice experiences to the Promising Scholars. McCray said she saw the potential for undergraduate research when she attended the CURO symposium as a 2006 Promising Scholar. Now studying under the guidance of Victoria Plaut, an assistant professor of psychology, McCray is investigating African-American models of success.

"The great thing about this exposure to undergraduate research is that it allows the high school students to see how integral research is to the academic careers of the participants and the university at large," said McCray. "By seeing real students participating in real research projects, the Promising Scholars may feel that their dreams of creating their own projects are more attainable, particularly within the environment at UGA."

Promising Scholar Michael Burel said he enjoyed the opportunity to interact with current UGA students involved in CURO's apprentice program. He spoke about stem cell research with Tulsi Patel, a genetics major from Acworth, who was a former apprentice, and met Steve Stice, a noted biomedical cloning scientist and Patel's research mentor.

"I still cannot believe I was talking to someone who was as interested in stem cell research as I was," said Burel, a recent graduate of Carlton J. Kell High School in Acworth. "Even more so, hearing Tulsi talk about what she did and how she was progressing the field in cutting-edge ways was beyond thrilling."