The Randy Kobes Undergraduate Poster Symposium is returning for a 15th year this fall, but in a new format. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the symposium will be taking place entirely on Zoom.
This annual event provides University of Winnipeg undergraduate students with the opportunity not only to gain experience in scientific research presentations, but also to see what other exciting research is happening amongst their peers.
“Because of the pandemic, we’re going virtual,” said Dr. Melanie Martin, Professor in the Department of Physics. “I think we’re going to get a larger number of students participating because they can do their presentations at home, in between shifts at work, or between classes.”
In past years, 20 students would be considered good participation. However, Martin says they are already at that number and expect another 20 to sign up before the deadline.
By moving this event to an online format, it shows quality undergraduate research can take place and be presented during a pandemic.
“It’s important for students to show the community what they’re doing and to show they can work in isolation,” Martin said.
Poster presentations will take place on Zoom from September 14 – 18 during scheduled time slots. Each session consists of a five-minute oral presentation of their research followed by time for questions.
All presentations will be recorded and then reviewed by a series of judges from September 21 – 25. Every student will receive feedback from the judges, providing insight on strengths and weaknesses, making the event a learning experience.
Judges include Kerrie Hayes, Director of Contracts at the University of Manitoba’s Office of Research Services; Peter Siemens, retired businessman serving on several international health care company boards; Yvette Shang, Business Development Specialist at Mitacs; Alfonz Koncan of A. Koncan & Associates Ltd.; Brent Wennekes, Director of Business Development at Mitacs; Jennifer Cleary, Manager of Programs at Research Manitoba; and Elliot King, Research Partnerships Promotion Officer with the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s Prairies Regional Office.
A number of students from the Pathways to Graduate Studies Program and Indigenous Summer Scholars Program have also signed up for the symposium. Martin says this shows the importance those two summer programs have when it comes to undergraduate research at the university.
“I think it makes a big difference for both the poster contest and the two programs,” Martin said. “Students are able to see that their research this summer was valuable, and it gives them experience to do a presentation in a friendly environment.”
An awards ceremony will take place on September 30 via Zoom to celebrate the contestants and announce winners in each category. While competing is strictly option, all students who wish to compete may win a cash prize in one of the four selected categories: social sciences, biological sciences, experimental physical sciences, and mathematical and theoretical physical sciences.
Asked her favourite part of the symposium is, Martin said: “I always look forward to seeing what great projects students do. I know students enter year-after-year, so I like to watch their progress and how much better they get at representing.”