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Justin Quaintance

Undergraduate Research Symposium selection committee needs research experience

By Aisha Sajid, November 22 2016 —

The Undergraduate Research Symposium is an annual event hosted by the Students’ Union to showcase undergraduate research including degree-long or summer research projects. This is an excellent opportunity for students to validate those days of slaving away in labs or library archives.  This symposium is designed to be different from others such as Markin and Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute which focus on specific topics.

The URS attempts to showcase the diversity of research from different faculties and emphasizes the University of Calgary’s Eyes High goal of being a top research institution. This is reflected in the variety of awards available from the president’s, vice presidents’ and provosts’ offices.

However, some students are frustrated with the working of the URS selection committee. One anonymous student was rejected from the URS twice. Most recently, this student was approached by a member of the URS committee and encouraged to apply because of the lack of representation from their faculty.

“I was declined even though the exact same abstract has been successfully submitted to numerous conferences,” the student said.

The lack of research experience requirement of committee members that assess the validity of student submissions is troubling. Not having a research background is important enough that it should disqualify members from sitting on the committee intended to accept or deny research submissions for a professional symposium.

“Even individuals on the committee complained about the lack of research experience they had, that they were to decide whether the abstracts were good enough for the symposium,” the student said.

This is not just important for the students being unfairly assessed due to a lack of standards. Having a body that has no research experience to validate research submissions diminishes the efforts of students as trivial.

Ultimately, the URS’s goal of giving students the opportunity to showcase their work alongside other undergraduate researchers from across campus is noble.

However, students should be recognized and assessed fairly. The committee should give applications constructive and open-ended feedback. And the URS committee should include a requirement of research experience for all committee members.

This is an important issue. Change can start only with students providing recommendations and the SU being willing to listen make the appropriate changes.

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