On Thursday, Dec. 10, from 10 a.m.–2 p.m., the Utah State University Office of Research will host the Fall Student Research Symposium (FSRS), marking the first time the annual symposium will be held virtually. The Office of Research is excited to produce the event that provides a platform for undergraduate researchers and creative artists to showcase their work, receive feedback from qualified judges and gain experience in presenting in an academic setting. The event is free and open to the public, and interested parties are encouraged to attend.
Since the founding of Utah State University, undergraduate research has been an important part of its land-grant mission. Over the years, numerous programs have been developed to offer all students a chance to find, fund and present research and creative work that they care about. FSRS is an annual symposium developed to provide students a chance to share their accomplishments at the end of the fall semester, especially seniors graduating in December.
“In founding this event, I wanted to give undergraduates a meaningful opportunity to share their research to a campus-wide audience of scholars,” said Travis Dorsch of Kinesiology and Health Studies, the founder of the event.
Featuring just thirteen students at its inception in 2013, FSRS has grown steadily and this year’s event will feature over 100 students from every college, most of whom are first-time presenters. In 2018, graduate student judges were added to the event, offering feedback to students and making the event a useful training tool to help prepare presenters to go on to bigger events like the National Conference on Undergraduate Research or professional conferences in their disciplines.
“Nothing can compare for a student to be able to share research and engage with audience members in one-on-one discussions about their work,” said Joyce Kinkead of the English Department, who has written extensively about how to mentor research in the humanities.
As FSRS has grown, it has brought together students in diverse fields to share work with each other and the broader community. Presenting at events like FSRS or its larger counterpart in the spring—the Student Research Symposium, part of Research Week—allows these students to become a part of that community through their meaningful contributions to our collective knowledge.
Of course, since this is no ordinary year, the Office of Research has prepared a way for students to continue to gain the benefits of presenting their work while remaining safe. The spring 2020 event was the first all-virtual student symposium at USU, and the organizers took lessons learned there to design an online experience for the students that will offer the same benefits as traditional in-person events.
FSRS will take place entirely within a new platform by developer ForagerOne, aptly named Symposium. Though virtual presentations offer some challenges, the shift has been well received and much anticipated.
Caine College of the Arts faculty Laura Gelfand, who is requiring students in her Honors course, Dogs in Art, to present at FSRS, said, “At a time when students and faculty are all struggling to make connections with other people, the FSRS offers students a chance to recognize that they are part of something larger, and that there is value in what they do.”
Though the benefit to students presenting at FSRS is clear, the Office of Research hopes that others will see the benefit in attending.
“With an online event, the opportunity to bring FSRS to a broader audience is really exciting,” Alexa Sand, the associate vice president for research running the event, said. “We can be more inclusive than ever for our Statewide campus and online students, and these students can reach more of the public on Symposium than they could with an on-campus event. We hope it will draw a large audience and illustrates to other students that research is a rewarding way to deepen their learning and get more out of their education.”
The event is a blend of pre-recorded presentation videos (mimicking an in-person poster session) and live video conference sessions where students will share slides (oral presentations). Anyone can see the event, view the posters and videos or join a video session to hear from students and ask questions. Those who choose to set up a free account on the platform can also comment on individual students’ posters or slides and engage with the students directly.
To learn more, attend FSRS 2020, and support student researchers, visit the FSRS Website. When the event starts at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 10, the platform will become available and the link will be posted to the website.