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Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences

Virtual Platform, In-Person Feel: Innovating at the A&S Undergraduate Research Festival

The event will feature undergraduate research spanning the humanities and sciences.

April 21, 2021, by Dan Bernardi

The College of Arts and Sciences’ (A&S’) annual undergraduate research festival will explore exciting new territory this year. The event, designed to bring together students, faculty and staff around science- and humanities-related projects in a physical space, will now be in a virtual space with a retro vibe. In this innovative new format, participants will have the opportunity for meaningful informal interaction with other attendees, including many who might not ordinarily have been able to attend an in-person festival. With more than 100 student presenters expected, it is among the largest of any such event at Syracuse University.

Introducing Gather.town

A&S undergraduate students will present their research projects on a platform called Gather.town on April 30 from 9 to 11 a.m. The web-conferencing software features virtual rooms where attendees move their character around the space using the arrow keys on their keyboard. As in real life, participants can “walk around” and view different projects organized into themed areas, named after A&S Fearless Firsts.

Gathertown Room.jpg

The main meeting area for the A&S Undergraduate Research Festival being hosted on the virtual platform Gather.town.

A unique feature of Gather.town is the ability to meet and speak with other festival attendees face-to-face. As someone approaches another participant’s avatar, a video window appears, similar to programs like Zoom. This allows you to both see, and speak, with student researchers, faculty and other festival-goers.

To learn more about a specific a project or view a presentation, a participant can approach its designated space on the map and type the letter X to interact.

See What Over 100 Student Researchers Are Working On

Organizers say one of the advantages of using Gather.town is the unprecedented public access it provides to A&S undergraduate research. For the first time, projects will be available for people to view from around the world – including family members who might not have been able to attend an in-person festival.

Lois Agnew, Associate Dean of Curriculum and professor of writing studies, rhetoric and composition in A&S, says organizers are looking forward to this festival’s distinctive approach after having to cancel the 2020 instalment altogether due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am so excited that we can offer this Gather.town experience this year. We’ll be able to bring together student researchers from across our large college in a single space, which would not have been possible in person due to COVID restrictions,” Agnew says. “I encourage all students and faculty to visit and see what our students have been working on!” There will be ten-minute live talks, five-minute recorded talks with five-minute Q&As, and poster sessions.

Subjects span the diverse range of study in A&S. From “Russian Caviar: A Delicacy in Jeopardy” (Bronwyn Galloway ’21), to “Acoustic Detection of Equine Lameness” (Zachary Ginkel ’21), presentations will pique myriad interests at the A&S undergraduate research festival.

Alaba Anna Tam Danagogo
Alaba Anna Tam Danagogo '21 will present her project, "Investigating the potential target genes of transcriptional co-regulator Cited2 in neocortical development," at the A&S undergraduate research festival on April 30.

Student presenter Alaba Anna Tam Danagogo ’21, a biology major and English and textual studies minor in A&S, and the student speaker during A&S’ virtual undergraduate convocation, will share her research on a gene called Cited2. Danagogo has been studying how Cited2 recruits other genes to influence the early development of cells in the brain’s neocortex, which controls functions such as sensory perception, generation of motor commands, spatial reasoning and conscious thought. She explains that a better understanding of the role of Cited2 in the neocortex could eventually lead to opportunities to develop therapeutic approaches to cure disorders that affect the development of the nervous system.

Danagogo says having the chance to communicate her research to others as an undergraduate student will pay dividends throughout her scientific career. “I'm grateful to have an opportunity to share my work with peers, faculty and so many others. Presenting undergraduate research in this way introduces us to the expectations of the scientific community and also builds confidence in our efforts as young researchers,” she says.

Salvatore Gallo
Salvatore Gallo '21 will present his project, "An investigation of environmental factors related to insomnia severity in undergraduate college students," at the undergraduate research festival.

Salvatore Gallo ’21, a psychology major and writing minor in A&S, says he looks forward to sharing his research findings in a public forum. His project, “An investigation of environmental factors related to insomnia severity in undergraduate college students,” explores the relationship between disruption-related environmental factors and insomnia. “This event is my first experience producing a meaningful academic product so I’m very excited and also, quite nervous. I can’t wait to present my first of hopefully many studies,” he says.

According to Karin Ruhlandt, Dean of A&S, this event demonstrates the incredible breadth and depth of research in the College. “Hands-on research, side by side with our faculty, is a hallmark of the A&S undergraduate experience. Thanks to the dedication of our faculty, and the guidance of our academic advisors, countless students are pursuing their research interests while advancing a field of knowledge. I am proud to share their work with the Syracuse University community in this unique setting, and encourage even more students to discuss creating their own research project with their advisor,” Ruhlandt says.

In addition to student research, attendees can also visit information tables and learn more about research opportunities that are available through A&S departments and through the University’s SOURCE program, which fosters and supports diverse undergraduate participation in faculty-guided scholarly research and creative inquiry.

Over 100 students have signed up to present and the entire Syracuse University community is welcome to attend. For more information and event access, email CASDean@syr.edu.