The Canvas Symposium Course Page welcomes students, faculty, staff and guests to its virtual symposium.

MU Hosts First Virtual Student Research Symposium; Students Receive Awards

Erin Hickle

On Friday, April 24, the Student Research Symposium, the annual showcase of student research, was held virtually, via Canvas, for the first time, due to the ongoing quarantine.

Students and faculty members were sent a link to join the Canvas course in order to view the presentations and allow for questions and conversations to take place online. Staff and family members who were not enrolled in Canvas were invited to join up temporarily so they could also watch their students present material.

Although two research groups had to withdraw from the symposium due to their inability to complete research during the pandemic, over 30 sessions occurred with each session receiving at least 2 to 3 comments from viewers/attendees and faculty evaluators assigned to assess each presentation.

Dr. Katharine Ings, chair of the Student Research Symposium Committee, said she had received positive feedback from faculty who have commented that the event enabled not only conversation between presenters and attendees but also gave students a professional conference experience that they can out on their CVs and learn from.

“I was so proud of our students as I saw the discussion sessions populate with their videos and posters,” Ings said. “I don’t think we can underestimate just how much work went into producing these videos, especially those that showed two, three, even four people who had to coordinate their efforts.

"Some students had challenges with Wi-Fi; some experienced a learning curve with the technology," she continued. "They didn’t sign up for this kind of symposium, but they rose to the occasion with a ‘can-do’ attitude.”

Students presenters also had a positive experience. “My favorite part was the long chain of questions that our evaluator kept asking us, since that provided a fun discussion between him and us [the two presenters]—and between us on how to answer and our evaluator on how to receive the answers,” said pre-pharmacy student Kendall Wrage. The presenters and faculty members were able to utilize the reply function in order to ask their questions, start conversations and give feedback.

Having to convert the symposium to an online format presented a few challenges to its presenters. Initially, there was a bit of confusion on how to format posters and presentations on the presenters’ end; however, that was quickly cleared up. Kendall Wrage, who is graduating from MU in 2020, along with Valentin Bogun, a pharmacy student graduating in 2021, did a presentation called “Micelles for Codelivery of Doxorubicin and Boretzomib for Multiple Myeloma.” Their faculty mentor was Dr. Vaibhav Mundra.

“What we were mostly stumped on was how to explain all the different pharmaceutical terms and whatnot to the rest of the university without being there in person to judge the looks on people’s faces,” Wrage said.

Bogun and Wrage first recorded their presentation over Zoom, due to the increased call quality. However, they ran into a few difficulties. Their original Zoom video would not upload to the Canvas site, forcing them to rerecord their video via Microsoft Teams. Once uploaded, they received word from the organizers that no one was able to view their video. “We had to figure that out very quickly as well,” Wrage said. “Dr. Ings was wonderful with us, though, which made everything okay.”

Every year, the interdisciplinary Student Research Symposium Committee also selects winning writing and posters. This committee consists of one member from each college who, among other responsibilities, meet to discuss each entry in order to find a winning balance of content and clarity of presentation.

This year, after evaluating all the entries, the committee gave out two poster awards. Dalton Bailey received one for his presentation titled, “Kosciusko County Drug Court Evaluation.” His faculty mentor was Dr. Pete Martini. Jessica Evans, Abby Giddens, Dalton Bailey, Katie Johnson and Ricky Partanen together received the second for their research titled “Student Relationships with Faculty/Staff and Their Effects on Student Success”. Their faculty mentor was Dr. Marcie Coulter-Kern.

One presenter is also awarded the opportunity to be the symposium’s keynote speaker after going through an audition process. Senior Chris François was selected in March, and she spoke on “Counteracting Hispaniola’s Crisis: The Rebirth of Antihaitianismo: Nonviolent Processes and Impacts on Stateless Populations.”

Each winning researcher received a digital certificate along with $150, divided equally among students if they worked in a group.

Looking at future symposiums, the committee will wait until next year to discuss whether they could make use of the Canvas course to complement in-person presentations. They understand that making a video would amount to additional work for students and would run the risk of having few viewers since the majority of the audience would attend the presentations in person.

However, this learning curve has allowed for the event to become adaptable and the faculty know that a virtual symposium is an option, if needed.