Summer Community of Scholars poster session goes virtual

Lydia Delaney

Lydia Delaney worked with Dr. Tatyana Sysoeva, assistant professor of biological sciences, on a project entitled "Functional characterization of commensal Lactobacilli from human urinary bladder."

Lydia Delaney

The Summer Community of Scholars (SCS) Undergraduate Research Program at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), a part of the University of Alabama System, has made the leap online for its first virtual poster session.

A response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event continues the SCS Undergraduate Research Program's focus on in-person research and creative projects between UAH undergraduates and their faculty or research staff mentor.

"Just two months before the start of the program, UAH closed its campus," says David Cook, UAH Academic Affairs director of undergraduate research. "Exciting, state-of-the-art projects such as studying a novel model of age-induced glucose intolerance, protecting LGBTQIA youth research participants, additive manufacturing in space and aquatic treadmill treatment for adults with multiple sclerosis – to name only a few of the 42 projects from a wide variety of fields – were on the line."

UAH President Darren Dawson gave the green light for the program for projects that could be modified to go completely online. The vast majority of the projects made the transition and the 2020 Summer Community of Scholars virtual edition was born.

"Other than all communication being online, the basic structure of the program did not change. Thanks to the patience of everyone involved, we were able to successfully transition the entire program to a virtual environment," Cook says.

Speakers for the program's professional development sessions gave their talks via Zoom, so participants still had the opportunity to gain extra skills and knowledge over the course of the summer.

The Shadowing Program morphed into a month-long opportunity in which over 35 high school and newly admitted UAH students were able to join multiple, live online sessions with mentors and student researchers to hear about projects and ask questions. The interactive sessions included cutting-edge research in areas including sociology, engineering, kinesiology, propulsion, chemistry and biology.

The summer program has now wrapped up and the traditional fall poster session showcasing the SCS will also look slightly different this year as UAH successfully undertakes a hybrid version of the academic semester.

Since a large face-to-face poster session is not possible, participants were asked to create a short video presentation of their work for upload to the UAH Undergraduate Research YouTube channel, in order to create the SCS's first virtual poster session.

"People will still be able to connect with the presenters with questions and feedback via email," Cook says. "Likewise, the SCS posters will be physically displayed in UAH's Salmon Library, and will be able to be electronically accessed via the YouTube channel."

The virtual poster session preserves an opportunity for UAH students, faculty and staff, as well the general public, to get a closer look at the depth of research and creative scholarship available to undergraduate students who strive to invest in their college education through the cocurricular activity of undergraduate research.

"The poster session is an important dimension of the research experience, and it also serves as an inspiration for others, giving them a glimpse into the creative possibilities that research can offer," says Cook.

The virtual feature adds a benefit, as well, Cook says.

"Dissemination of results is an important part of the research experience, and the virtual poster session is an opportunity for students to present their work as a living document that will be available long after a two-hour poster session," he says. "Despite the challenges presented to the summer program in 2020, it was a success because everyone involved showed their resilience, spirit of cooperation and Charge On attitude."



David Cook