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2022 Student Research and Creative Scholarship Showcase returns to in-person event
by Catalina Myers |
On a Friday morning in late April, the atrium of UAA’s ConocoPhillips Integrated Science Building bustled with undergraduate and graduate students setting up poster boards for the second annual Student Research and Creative Scholarship Showcase. The event, hosted by the UAA Honors College, was a reimagining of two previous end-of-year student events, the Undergraduate Research & Discovery Symposium, which leaned heavily toward the sciences and the Student Showcase, which focused on arts and humanities.
“It’s a combination of the two events,” said Claudia Lampman, dean of the Honors College and vice provost for student success. She said the two popular end-of-year student events were well attended, but after taking a break in 2019 and the pandemic in 2020, the event was put on hold. The pause allowed her and Joseph Bruner, student success specialist and event organizer, to restructure the two events, which had the same goal — showcasing students’ scholarly achievements and research from the current academic year. “We wanted to create an event that included all students.”
Lampman and Bruner relaunched the event last spring online to huge success. Bruner said they were pleasantly surprised with the participation, and despite the entire event, including presentations and judging being held via Zoom, many students submitted projects.
With COVID-19 mandates easing within the Municipality of Anchorage and on campus, Bruner said they were excited to host an in-person event and offer students an opportunity to have a more engaging experience with faculty and peers. This year’s event saw equal success, with 40 students submitting posters in four categories: natural sciences, arts and humanities, graduate students and social sciences/business education. Like previous showcase events, students submitted a poster project and prepared a presentation for a panel of judges. First and second place posters were awarded cash prizes, and because of the quality of projects submitted and close competition, a third-place award was added.
“It was exciting because this was my first poster presentation that I have done in front of peers and professors that I know more on a personal basis,” said Lauren Kohntopp, a junior majoring in chemistry and minoring in neuroscience who submitted a poster presentation based on her research internship last summer with the Worcester Polytechnic Institute and was centered on glucose toxicity and the saturated pathways that can lead to Type 2 diabetes. “I’ve presented at other conferences before, but here, the pressure’s on because of all the people you know, professors you’ve taken classes from, and the heads of departments. It was exciting to get feedback from professors and peers that I knew very well.”
Callie Wagner, who graduated this spring with her B.A. in art and in history, submitted her “Barbie in Tarot” project, a series of original digital creations she used to reference in her watercolor paintings. The project was based on her interest in tarot cards, their religious and historical significance and her childhood love for Barbie and reimagining the iconic doll as tarot card art with three pieces titled “The Empress,” “The Moon” and “The Star.”
“I wanted to do something fun — not really fandom based — but with a strong female presence,” said Wagner. “I thought of Barbie and how she was my doll of choice growing up and so I put the two together.”
Wagner said she was surprised by the positive feedback at the event and said her poster project sparked a lot of interest and discussion.
“I had a great reaction from a lot of the judges who came to view my poster,” Wagner said. “But I also think that I had an advantage because it was striking with the ‘Barbie pink’ and people kind of thought, ‘What is that?’”
Wagner said she was happy to get back to campus and for there to be an in-person opportunity for students to showcase their academic work and talk with their peers and engage with UAA faculty.
A graduate student pursuing his Ph.D. in clinical psychology, Andrew Richie said he was excited to get back to campus and engage with students and faculty once again. He presented a poster project focused on using social media, specifically Facebook, to advertise to potential participants in clinical studies.
Richie, who received his undergraduate and master's degree at UAA, said he’d presented at showcases before and was happy to have the opportunity again.
“It was fun presenting at the showcase again — it’s kind of come full circle — presenting as a graduate student,” he said. “I gave my presentation about four times. It was a small group but I liked that a little bit more because it gave more time to engage and talk to the judges.”
Overall the 2022 Student Research and Creative Scholarship Showcase in-person event was a success, and the Honors College hopes to build the event's momentum with more students participating next year.
“This kind of event is a great way to showcase the different interests and research being done out there,” Wagner said. “I loved being able to walk around and choose which presentations I was interested in and learning more about what other students are doing.”