A record number of students and faculty from 20 academic departments converged to present and learn about research conducted at Colby at the 4th annual Colby Undergraduate Summer Research Retreat (CUSRR) July 21-22 in The Forks, Maine.

The two-day event initiated and organized by Assistant Professor of Chemistry Kevin Rice ’96 drew 96 students and 28 faculty members this year in subjects ranging from the calls of spring peepers (biology) to Waterville’s retailers during the Great Depression (Jewish studies).

In its first year, CUSRR focused on science research. Since then, it has included students in all disciplines, but it has taken a while for some to realize that a broad range of research is represented, Rice said.

“I think its safe say that the secret’s out,” said Rice.

One draw is the collaborative, even social, nature of CUSRR. “We all see every talk, see every poster, eat every meal together,” said Rice.

The first day focuses on the research R in CUSRR. Students give oral and poster presentations, and they hear from President William D. Adams and the keynote speaker—this year Dany Chan ’02, assistant curator at San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum.

In her address, Chan, an East Asian studies major at Colby, planned to use a case study to illustrate the importance of research in exhibiting and interpreting the visual arts to the general public.

CUSRR Day 2The second day focuses on the retreat R. Students and faculty gather for whitewater rafting hosted by Rob Peabody ’96, Rice’s Colby roommate and owner of Crab Apple Whitewater.

Though students conduct research during the academic year, the summer is different because students don’t have classes or formal activities vying for their attention. Students can immerse themselves in their research, and work closely with professors who also have fewer responsibilities.

Beyond giving students the opportunity to share what they’ve been working on all summer, CUSRR allows them to work on their communication skills—key to being a researcher, Rice says.

“What we do,” he said, “is only as good as how we can tell others about it.”

Opportunities such as this are more common during the academic year—the Colby Undergraduate Research Symposium celebrated its 12th year in April, and other schools have similar programs—but the summer retreat model is unusual for institutions like Colby. “An off-campus retreat is not something I’ve ever seen at a small school,” said Rice.

Of course, not every school has a place like The Forks or whitewater like the Kennebec’s.

More information, including a program of presentations

Photos: Top: A student presents at CUSRR 2009, photo by Brian DiMento ’10. Bottom: Whitewater rafting on the Kennebec, photo courtesy of the Chemistry Department.