OGDEN -- To get a mental grasp on the number of people coming to Ogden this Thursday through Saturday, think 2002 Olympic curling fans, then add a bunch more people.
That, vaguely speaking, is the size of the group coming to Weber State University for the 26th annual National Conference on Undergraduate Research.
This will be the group's first time at Weber State, and more than 3,100 people are expected to attend.
"This is the foremost conference on undergraduate research in the country," said John Cavitt, director of the WSU Office of Undergraduate Research.
"It is the largest conference Ogden ever hosted, even bigger than the Olympics. The last I heard, hotels were booked from Farr West to North Salt Lake, and there were only three rooms left in all of Weber County."
Shuttle buses will run between downtown and Weber State during the conference.
Last year, the NCUR gathering was in Ithaca, N.Y., and the year before, it was at the University of Montana, Cavitt said.
Weber State has worked for a three or four years to get the conference to come here, he said.
"It's the perfect opportunity for many more Weber State students to be involved with the conference, and it's also a way to highlight all the strides we've made in undergraduate research to a national audience.
"It's a large contingent of colleges and universities that will be here and a good opportunity to show off what we have been doing over the past 10 years or so."
Weber State submitted its qualifications to conference organizers, including WSU facilities that would be available and available lodging in the area.
Once Weber State won the bid, it was up to faculty members to review student applications in 66 fields of study and select which students to invite to the conference, based on guidelines provided by NCUR organizers.
"We enlisted the entire faculty to read those student abstracts," Cavitt said.
Some conference events and displays will be open to the public.
As seating will be limited, some lectures by visiting scholars will be streamed live on the website.
Among the speakers are:
* Mario R. Capecchi, molecular geneticist and winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (streaming 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Thursday).
* Anne Fadiman, award-winning author of "The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down," the true story of a Laotian refugee family's interactions with the California health care system (streaming 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Friday).
* Paul Alan Cox, director of the Institute of EthnoMedicine in Jackson Hole, Wyo., a Time Magazine Hero of Medicine and a 2011 recipient of an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from WSU (streaming 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday).
Students gain discipline and understanding through their research, Cavitt said, and research looks great on a resume or a graduate school application.
"Students learn how to think critically and creatively for a better understanding and deeper appreciation within their fields of study."