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Undergraduate students were the ‘stars of the show’ at first ever poster showcase event

Academia Week 2020 began with an Undergraduate Poster Showcase, sponsored by the Office of Science Education (OSE), Science Undergraduate Society (SUS), and Teaching and Learning Services (TLS). Pictured above: Dean of Science Bruce Lennox, OSE Director Marcy Slapcoff, TLS Project Assistant Kira Smith and SUS Academia Week Director Cem Parlar.

“The balloons were a very intentional decoration,” explained OSE Director Marcy Slapcoff during her welcoming remarks at the Undergraduate Poster Showcase on February 11, 2020. “This is a celebration. It’s a celebration of inquiry, a celebration of student engagement in learning, of faculty engagement in learning, and just the complete undergraduate experience and the community we are all a part of at McGill.”

As the opening event for Academia Week 2020, the Showcase allowed undergraduate students to share their work from summer research awards, class assignments, independent thesis projects and volunteer work. For many students, this was their first time presenting their work.

In addition to guidance on how to create their scientific posters, undergraduate students received individualized business cards that were presented next to their posters during the Showcase.  Pictured above: Undergraduate student Jacob Bettencourt presents his work.

Noelia Azalde was among those presenting a poster for the first time. She described, “I think putting it in a poster makes your research so real. You get to see your results, and it’s really nice to try to communicate and try to make other people understand why your work is so important.”

It was uplifting to hear how meaningful the event was to the student presenters. Many expressed that they were initially nervous to present, not sure how to condense their findings into a poster or if their projects were even complete enough to share. It was clear these concerns were considered in the organization of the event, through the collaborative co-design approach that valued student voices.

Undergraduates were able to attend poster development workshops for guidance on their poster designs, and the event was designed to be judgment free, with no competition for top research prizes. Nearly every student I spoke with emphasized how much they appreciated not being evaluated.

Nuha Anver Mohamed Rizan described how she was excited and proud to have an opportunity to invite her friends and lab members see her present her research. “I like the fact that they made us the stars of the show,” she explained.

Through a structured networking session, students were able to interact with individuals outside of their department to share ideas about their undergraduate experience.

The variety of topics presented (including climate change, gut bacteria, and artificial intelligence) allowed students to learn about student work beyond their current lab or project. Students were thrilled to discuss ideas with undergraduate students from different departments, as well as the invited faculty, alumni, and graduate student mentors.

“It means a lot, because I’m able to talk to so many different professors and students,” said Laura (Xiang Qi) Meng. “I’m able to talk about what I’m passionate about, and also get their ideas and their feedback, too.”

The Poster Showcase was a rewarding event that emphasized the importance of inquiry in undergraduate learning. Speaking about his involvement in the Showcase, student Robert Kidd said, “It’s definitely given me a new appreciation for what I learned in class, not everything is just memorize this or answer a question on a test. You can go beyond that; you can ask questions about what you learned, think about what we don’t know and how we get to greater knowledge from that.”

The Undergraduate Poster Showcase was a great addition to this year’s Academia Week, providing students with an opportunity to share their work and engage with their McGill community.

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