Penn State Brandywine sophomore Sara Neville was selected as one of 60 undergraduates from across the nation and across all disciplines to present her research to senators, representatives, their staffers and representatives from funding agencies as part of the Council on Undergraduate Research's annual Posters on the Hill event on April 13 in Washington, D.C.

During her trip, Neville, who is a member of the honors program on campus, also had the opportunity to meet with Congressman Joseph Sestak's legislative assistant for education, Adam Axler. She is the first student from the campus selected to present in this prestigious event.

"I've never really been one for politics, but spending time on Capitol Hill, people-watching, and listening to renowned educators like the executive officer of CUR, Nancy Hensel, and the secretary of the Smithsonian, Dr. Wayne Clough, has made me realize how difficult it is to start educational initiatives and to encourage teachers and students nationwide to get behind science and writing and literacy and well, everything!" Neville said during her trip to Capitol Hill via her blog, "The Quest of an Undergraduate Researcher," which can be found at online.

Neville's research project began during the summer of 2009 when she participated in the Penn State-sponsored National Science Foundation (NSF) funded Transforming Earth Systems Science Education (TESSE) Workshop for pre-service and in-service teachers from several states. The goal of the workshop was to help science teachers learn how to promote inquiry-based learning and provide their students with a deeper understanding of important science content.

It was during this workshop that Neville's research project, called "The Earth QUEST," was formed. "The Earth QUEST," which stands for "Questioning and Understanding Earth Science Themes," is an educational tool Neville created "that integrates the technology of Google Earth with the promotion of scientific and geographic literacy in the classroom. The Earth QUEST is a spin-off of Jerome Burg's Google Lit Trips, which document the journeys of some of the greatest stories in literature: The Odyssey, Macbeth, and The Grapes of Wrath, just to name a few!" Neville wrote on her blog.

"The Earth QUEST is an easy way to provide students with free, relevant Earth science content from books they might not pick up on their own," she continued. "With the technology of Google Earth, each QUEST pinpoints locations mentioned in the books (to help improve geographic literacy), includes photos (we're starting to incorporate audio & video as well), and highlights the most important content from the books. If teachers want to bring nonfiction literature into the classroom but don't have the finances or the time, the Earth QUEST is the perfect solution!"

Not only has this project earned Neville recognition in the nation's capitol, on Thursday, April 15, she was bestowed the campus' Undergraduate Student Research Award in front of hundreds of parents and members of the campus community. The award is given annually to one student on campus who has completed serious, high-quality research requiring critical thinking, analysis and creativity.

CUR, for which the campus now holds a membership, supports faculty development for high-quality undergraduate student-faculty collaborative research and scholarship. Nearly 600 institutions and more than 5,000 individuals belong to CUR.

For more information on CUR, visit online; for more information on TESSE, visit online; or to learn more about Neville's Google EarthQUEST, visit online.