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Undergraduate Research Celebrated in Virtual CUR Research Festival

By Nicole Carrera

Published on April 1, 2020

Highway Into the CellDespite campus-wide cancellations due to coronavirus (COVID-19), the 2020 Undergraduate Research Festival, which was set to be held March 10-12, 2020, was successfully transitioned to a series of virtual events. This annual festival, which is sponsored by the Center for Undergraduate Research (CUR), showcases the research done by undergraduate students. The events consisted of a virtual poster exhibit, virtual elevator talks, and the “Images of Research and Scholarship” showcase. 

Roberto Ramos, PhD,Founding Director of the Center for Undergraduate Research, is pleased with the outcome of the virtual festival. “This is USciences’ first Virtual Research Festival and it shows the university’s commitment, despite the limitations set by the COVID-19 crisis,” said Ramos. He was also interviewed by the CUR Community about the work that went into making the event virtual.

On the day before the event, the USciences Task Force on COVID-19 informed Dr. Ramos that they recommended the event be cancelled as a safety precaution. Dr. Ramos and the CUR Advisory Board initially decided to postpone the festival indefinitely. However, this quickly changed, Dr. Ramos said.  

 “Realizing much work had already been done by many students, I decided to salvage some of the events by making [them] virtual,” he said.

Organizing student participants on such short notice was not an easy feat, but Dr. Ramos was able to successfully hold the Images of Research Photo Exhibit, the Elevator Talks, and the Research Poster Session virtually. The poster session had 75 percent participation, and one of the images in the photo exhibit generated over 60 “likes” on Facebook. “I was deeply impressed by how our undergraduates responded and adapted to the situation”, Dr. Ramos said. “It was amazing to see how they pitched in.”

I was deeply impressed by how our undergraduates responded and adapted to the situation. It was amazing to see how they pitched in.

-- Roberto Ramos, PhD

In total, 37 undergraduate research posters were featured during the poster exhibit. Of those conducting the research, most were USciences students, however, student research from Rosemont College and University of Pennsylvania were also included. In addition, there were four posters created by high school students from the Franklin Institute’s STEM Scholars program. 

USciences undergraduates also showcased their work during the “Images of Research” virtual event. There were nine research images featured, and popular choice voting was done using “likes” on Facebook. Biology major, Angelica Patel won the popular choice vote for her image, titled “Highway into the Cell”. 

To round out the day of virtual events, four USciences undergraduates were given the chance to present two-minute elevator talks about the research they had done. 

Dr. Ramos also offers hope and guidance to other institutions who may be facing similar challenges during this COVID-19 outbreak. He said, “There are many possible formats available… It is possible to implement these platforms and give students better feedback and recognition for the research that they’ve done”.

Categories: News, Misher College of Arts and Sciences, Event, Research, Presentation, Faculty, Students, Undergraduate