Undergraduate Research Symposium lives on in cyberspace

Hundreds of undergraduate researchers will gather Friday, May 1, to share presentations on the projects they’ve been working on this year.

Virtually, of course.

The Virtual Undergraduate Research Symposium will feature the work of 277 student researchers who have been mentored by more than 200 faculty members. Eighty faculty and staff members have volunteered as virtual judges. The symposium will open at 8 a.m. on Friday and remain online through May 8. (A link to the site will be posted on the Office of Undergraduate Research home page that morning.)

“Student success, research excellence and community engagement are pillars of UWM’s mission, and all of these are celebrated at the annual Undergraduate Research Symposium,” said Nigel Rothfels, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research.

“When it became clear in mid-March that we were likely not going to be able to host our 12th campuswide symposium in the Union, we decided we should try to put together something online.”

After looking at options for moving presentations online, the Office of Undergraduate Research decided to use UWM’s CampusPress platform. Mark Jacobson, director of web and mobile services in University Relations, and senior Zach Bania of that office developed the infrastructure for the site quickly.

Then Office of Undergraduate Research staff, including associate director Kyla Esguerra, staff members Tamara Long and Jessica Schuld and student workers Danielle Hobach, Aimee Roekle and Emily Ruder, worked with the student researchers to upload abstracts, posters and voiceover PowerPoints and other “artifacts” — items related to the research.

“It is a testimony to the determination of our students and the commitment of our university’s faculty and staff that in the midst of all the additional stress and disruption of this spring, two-thirds of the abstracts we originally received have an online version on the site,” Rothfels said.

Judges and visitors to the symposium will be able to make comments, ask questions and offer congratulations to the students. Unlike the real-life symposium held in past years, the online projects are indexed and visitors will be able to search the presentations by department, by name and by topic.

Projects will receive awards for presentation and excellence in research.

Rothfels is grateful the symposium could continue this year in spite of the challenges.

“We have looked forward to these annual events as opportunities to thank the research mentors who have guided the efforts of their students over the year, to congratulate the students on their hard work, and to celebrate the fact that UWM, over the course of decades, has built an exceptional environment of shared inquiry.”

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