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New and upcoming Undergraduate Research Symposium

The first ever all-discipline Undergraduate Research and Creative Collaborations Symposium will be held virtually on April 30, showcasing more than 120 projects across the sciences, social sciences, humanities and creative arts. As of now, the symposium is the only event that covers research across all disciplines in the undergraduate population. 

Director of Undergraduate-Faculty Research Partnerships Margaret Lynch and Senior Associate Director of Communications and Marketing for the School of Arts and Sciences Simon Goodacre spoke with The Brandeis Hoot about the event and the recent efforts to develop undergraduate research opportunities at Brandeis. 

A sample of each student’s project will be opened to the public on April 28, where attendees can preview content and leave comments. The opportunity to engage with projects beforehand can help attendees produce more insightful and directed questions for presenters, Lynch explains. 

“Having this online platform, we can really extend and enrich the interactions between students, their peers, faculty, and also friends, alumni and donors at Brandeis,” Lynch says. “It’s designed to be really an interactive event where it’s for everyone, you know, everyone from all stages with all kinds of background.” Lynch suggests that students drop in to presentations that are outside of their familiar areas.

During the live synchronous portion of the symposium from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on April 30, each student will be placed in a breakout room where they have a 30-minute interval to present and answer questions. Afterwards, the symposium will be open for 10 more days where attendees can leave additional comments and questions.

“We really want to make this an annual tradition, an annual celebration of undergraduate research,” Goodacre says. “I would really encourage any student attending to support their peers as much as possible,” he adds.

“Research is something that any student should be able to participate in, regardless of background financial circumstances,” Goodacre comments. He encourages every student to gain some exposure through the symposium. “Even if you didn’t come into Brandeis considering to conduct original research ideas, it’s worth a look. Because it can lead to many different things.” 

Lynch also emphasized the interdisciplinary nature of the research at Brandeis. She mentioned that the symposium is as much a place for attendees as it is for the presenters. An opportunity where someone presenting research in organic chemistry may talk with a student in art history. 

This past year, the Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Collaborations has supported students in reimagining their research endeavors to encompass remote and virtual resources. For example, many library archives have been digitized for student use, and students have been able to continue exploring scientific research questions despite lab capacity reductions, using computational instead of experimental techniques. 

“We didn’t have a single student who couldn’t complete their research in a re-envisioned way,” Lynch cites. “This year, we’re hoping for a different landscape, but the remote component will still be vibrant and we will still be available for summer 2021.”

The Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Collaborations is a newly launched office, created at the beginning of 2020. Although there were many research and creative collaborations among faculty and students, there wasn’t any centralized office that could provide support and funding resources for the students. “Our mission is to really work to get the word out with first-year students, so they can see that research could be part of their experience at Brandeis, and that we want to emphasize that, research is for everyone, for all students at Brandeis, not a subset,” Lynch explained. “I want to encourage students that they don’t have to have answers; they can have a lot of questions, and I will help guide them,” Lynch says. 

“The world of research can be very overwhelming,” Goodacre says. “What we’re ultimately trying to do is help [students] with that journey. That’s the one thing I’d like to really emphasize: [research] is for everyone.”

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