Symposium spotlights undergraduate student research

By in News

On Jan. 20, undergraduate students at the University of Saskatchewan will be displaying their research and challenging the notion that such projects are reserved only for graduate students and professors.

The Undergraduate Project Symposium aims to be more than a typical poster fair, involving students from the humanities to the sciences and beyond. With 23 different projects on queue for this year, the North Concourse in Place Riel will feature a variety of innovations from undergraduate students across campus.

Gabe Senecal, vice-president academic affairs for the U of S Students’ Union, has contributed to planning this year’s Undergraduate Project Symposium and is excited to see what students have to offer.

“It’s not just a research project you might have in a science class as part of a collaboration with an instructor or in a social science class. It’s further than that. Research can be anything; it can be anSymposium artistic work as well, it can be a performance piece, it can be an art piece,” Senecal said. “We have a lot of those artistic approaches as well, which I’m especially looking forward to.”

The symposium creates a unique opportunity for participants, since presenting their research can be beneficial to an undergraduate student’s future career.

This will be the fourth symposium of its kind. For Senecal, some memorable projects from years past have included performances, plays and even a video that was produced for this express purpose. This year, a musical ensemble will perform, among other artistic endeavors, and care has been taken to accommodate these alternative forms of research.

“The awards and recognition are definitely part of the perks, but I think that the value comes in just being able to demonstrate your research capabilities to the U of S community as well as the professors who are coming to attend,”  Senecal said.

Senecal recognizes that the flow of pedestrian traffic through Place Riel can be upwards of several thousands over the course of only one day, creating an atmosphere where student work can gain a great deal of exposure and attention, though that may not be the most valuable factor at the forefront of students’ minds.

“I think that the benefits people have their eye on the most would be the monetary prizes,” Senecal said. “There’s a substantial amount of money on the line.”

Using a rubric to evaluate projects, judges assign a score and the highest average score is awarded the top prize, which was $1,000 for the first place project in last year’s competition. The judges are selected to include representation from multiple disciplines, and are usually professors, staff and at least one student judge who is especially proficient in research.

The broader student body may also participate in the judging process. The People’s Choice Award is determined by student spectators who vote by ballot box and involves a $200 cash prize for the winning recipient. The event and voting will run between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Jan. 20 and at 2:30 p.m. the prizes will be announced.

“If people are ever interested in this they should come check out what people are doing this year and then they should submit a project next December for the symposium of January 2017,” Senecal said.

Students interested in submitting a project of their own can learn more about the partners who support the development of the Undergraduate Research Symposium, which includes both the Gwenna Moss Center for Teaching Effectiveness and the Undergraduate Research Initiative at the U of S.

“It’s definitely student-run for students,” Senecal said. “This project symposium is really to demonstrate the capabilities of undergraduate students all around.”

Senecal believes students should be proud of their contributions as valuable work that is happening within the campus community at the undergraduate level.

“I’m thankful to all of the students who have volunteered to show off their research to give a representation of the capabilities of students here at the U of S.”

Image: Jeremy Britz / Graphics Editor