Undergraduate research symposium moves to digital presentations for one-on-one interaction and review – UMSL Daily


Education major Madison Beirne (top right corner) is hosting an online presentation of “A Velvet Rope of Exclusion: The Delmar Divide” at the 2021 Undergraduate Research Symposium. (Screenshot)

Normally, the University of Missouri-St. Louis’ student researchers mounted their exhibitions for the Undergraduate Research Symposium all together in the rotunda of the Millennium Student Center. This year, each of the student researchers presented their work in their own individual digital space.

Researchers hosted their guests online using Microsoft Teams, allowing connected people to browse slides, presentations, and videos before interacting with students through direct messaging, live chats, and video conferencing.

Creating a digital format to showcase undergraduate research, scholarship, and creative work presented challenges for both faculty and students, but organizers said this had not diminished the enthusiasm of students to present their research. More than 50 projects were presented by 70 students sponsored by around 30 professors.

“I am really impressed with the level of commitment to research and the public forum that these students and their mentors have shown this year”, UMSL Assistant Professor and Undergraduate Research Coordinator Kate Votaw noted. “Not only is it virtually impossible to physically get together to do research, but everyone’s bandwidth is stretched. Despite the fact that the URS is digital – which just isn’t as rewarding of an experience as being able to present it in person – we actually have close to an average number of projects this year.

The students’ research projects ranged from societal to scientific. Research topics included: the relationship between resilience, stress and PTSD, LGBTQ + diversity training for businesses, Cahokia Alive, women in STEM fields, German resistance during the Third Reich, curcumin: a agent for the control of sepsis, management of radioactive waste and the development of a biocompatible support for a study of drug release in response to pH.

Kaleb Bolen presented his project, “The Representation of Jews in Nazi Propaganda and Art,” which examined the negative ways in which Jews were portrayed through stereotypical representations and how people consider these incorrect representations to be true. .

He felt comfortable sharing his work in the digital space. He said it was easier to present online and interact one-on-one when people walked into his room than it was to present to groups of people in person.

“While I would love to meet everyone in person – that would be better – there are obviously some security issues,” said Bolen, who is in his second year of marketing studies. “But I think it makes it easier in some ways. So you can log into my room. Just talk to me, we can have a conversation and be one-on-one. If there are a ton of people coming at the same time, maybe I would like to chat with you more, but I don’t have enough time. It makes him more focused. “

For many of the student presenters, the focus was on the research itself.

Madison Beirne, who specializes in elementary education with a focus on teaching English to speakers of other languages, studied the impact of St. Louis’ racial segregation on the public school system in her presentation “A Velvet Rope of Exclusion: The Delmar Divide. Beirne said his undergraduate research project gave him a foundation for graduate research.

“As I enter graduate school, I have research experience to draw on and more questions to ask that match my interests,” Beirne said.

Participation in URS also helped Beirne to connect with UMSL professors and gain valuable life lessons.

“Each first cycle works with a professor who supervises his research process. In some cases, the first cycle partners with a professor and gets real world experience, ”she said. “I learned some important skills in this process that I might not have learned otherwise. It takes a lot of work, time, and energy to research a topic, and then you pitch your work to others for feedback. There is authenticity and a real commitment that comes from it.

Chancellor Kirstin Sobolik, who spoke briefly before the symposium attendees parted ways in the halls, recalled how committed she was to her own student research project while studying biology at the University of Iowa.

“If you’ve ever seen pollen under a scanning electron microscope, that’s beautiful,” Sobolik said. “And these beautiful photos that I still have in my file, I use today. And that then allowed me to move on to graduate school, where I ended up analyzing pollen from archaeological sites to examine environmental changes over time. So I love pollen. I like undergraduate research. And I’m so proud of our undergraduate researchers who are here today.

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