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  • Writer's pictureRKPROST

Presenting 200 Hours of Research in 12 Minutes

As I enter my final semester at UW-Superior, I never imagined presenting my findings at a virtual research symposium. This virtual audience saw a 12-minute presentation summarizing a 30-page research paper because I completed 200 hours of work in a three-month timeframe. This past summer, I was awarded a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, which provided me with the unique opportunity to spend the summer working on a research project with the support of Tom Notton as my faculty mentor.

Since there is no traditional educational path for aspiring UX Designers, I thought that a SURF project would be an excellent opportunity to pursue my interest in this emerging field. Last summer, my friends were pioneers of the first fully online SURF program due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Following their footsteps, I also experienced benefits, encountered surprises, and overcame obstacles with the online SURF program.

I took a thematic approach to analyze data and offer recommendations to transform a nonprofit organization’s social media and website strategy. Since my project involved surveying and interviewing human participants, the Institutional Review Board (IRB) approved my project. I wrote a 25-page document overviewing my proposed research study and its methodologies, informed consent forms and completed the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) Social and Behavioral Research course.

I found this process time-consuming and somewhat complicated to navigate as a first-time researcher. However, the members of the IRB were very responsive via email to answer any questions I had. Overall, I respected the ethical importance of this IRB submission process to protect the welfare of the individuals who consented to participate in my study.

Once the spring 2021 semester ended, I launched into my research study. As a Minneapolis native, I returned home for the summer. Not only did I have all my 1:1 meetings and larger group progress check-ins via Zoom, but I also conducted 3 of my interviews and sent a survey to my study participants all online. The virtual meetings were more convenient since I didn’t need to leave my home, and check-in meetings and research workshops were recorded for me to refer to later.

On the other hand, potential study participants could easily ignore my emails with the link to my survey, impacting the number of people the survey reached. Additionally, there was a lack of socialization between other summer researchers and me. Yes, I know their names and what they researched, but we missed out on organic networking and conversation opportunities. Why are they passionate about their project? What challenges or successes did they experience throughout the summer? Will they continue with their research after the program ends?

Although I felt disconnected from my cohort throughout the summer, the SURF program created a little more opportunity for us to have an in-person experience. With guidance from Mikayla Haynes, a former SURF recipient, and researcher at the Lake Superior Research Institute, she was a great resource on making presentations, graphics, writing abstracts, and coordinating the virtual symposium. Additionally, the writing center offered an in-person help session to finalize our abstracts if we were unfamiliar with writing one.

We were hopeful that we could hold our annual research symposium in a hybrid format this year. However, as we monitored the development of the COVID-19 pandemic and considered the logistics and quality of this format, we determined to hold the event completely virtual.

On September 28th, from 4-6 p.m., three concurrent Zoom sessions ran simultaneously. We had the option to present live or play a pre-recorded video of our presentation during the symposium. The virtual format removed geographical barriers. Therefore, my friends and family from out of town could attend the event to support my peers and me. However, I missed the excitement and energy of face-to-face interactions, visiting posters, and networking with others.

Despite the advantages and disadvantages of the virtual SURF program and research symposium, it was important to remain flexible and adapt accordingly. Because of the funding I received for this project and my mentor’s support, I am grateful for the opportunity to build on my skills as a visual communicator, user experience designer, and digital content creator to build a positive audience experience between people and technology.

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