Cornell holds its first undergraduate psychology conference

On May 12th, The Psychology Department hosted its first Cornell Undergraduate Psychology (CUP) Conference at the Cornell Botanic Gardens. The conference brought together undergraduates from a multitude of backgrounds to showcase the research they’ve been conducting on psychological and brain science. 

“The event was a clear success -- throughout the day, undergraduates presented posters and gave polished and professional talks on their current research, all while attendees eagerly listened,” said Melissa Ferguson, chair and professor of psychology. 

The conference was Ferguson’s brainchild, and with help from psychology major Shelly Zhang ‘19 and psychology staff including Cindy Durbin, Lisa Proper, and Pam Cunningham, the team put the conference together in less than six months.

“Turnout was excellent for our first time doing this,” said Ferguson, noting that they had 31 undergraduate presenters and enough attendees to fill the room. The undergraduate presenters were juniors and seniors from departments across the university, including psychology in the College of Arts & Sciences, human development in the College of Human Ecology, communication in the College of Agiculture and Life Sciences, and the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. The broad range of topics in psychological science presented reflected a wide array of topics, from oxytocin in prairie voles to children’s evaluation of leadership; and from modeling language dynamics to quantum entanglement of human memory. Attendees included faculty members, graduate students, and undergraduates.

Professor Amy Krosch talks with her psychology honors advisee Suzy Ji Soo Park.

Professor Amy Krosch talks with her psychology honors advisee Suzy Ji Soo Park.


“Each presentation and research topic was unique, and that’s what made all of the presentations so interesting,” said Ferguson. “The event was a huge step forward for the psychology department, fulfilling the role of the poster presentation for the psychology honors students we used to hold. Now the honors students can present a professional conference talk in addition to their poster, giving them a unique opportunity to discuss their own research and interests. It also provides a forum for the many students who are not (yet) honors students but who are conducting independent research. The conference enabled many of the presenters to give their first conference talk, noted Ferguson, a particularly important opportunity since many  of the juniors are thinking about an honors thesis and many of the seniors were going on to graduate school in subjects including psychology, law, and medicine. 

For future CUP conferences, Ferguson said the department hopes to encourage even more diversity in the types of psychological science represented, perhaps including approaches such as behavioral economics. “We hope the conference will become a well-established opportunity for undergraduates not just at Cornell, but in neighboring colleges and universities as well,” she added. The conference was co-sponsored by the Department of Psychology, the Department of Communication, and the EXPO Lab at the School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

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