Virtual tools to help make Elon’s Spring Undergraduate Research Forum as engaging as ever

On Tuesday, April 27, members of the university community can listen to and engage with nearly 240 oral and poster presentations.

Elon University will showcase the in-depth and insightful research of students and their mentors throughout the day on Tuesday during the annual Spring Undergraduate Research Forum, now in its 28th year.

Members of the university community will find close to 240 presentations across nearly all academic fields during SURF, with students offering poster presentations and oral presentations detailing the work they’ve undertaken, the data and details they’ve collected and the findings and insights they’ve generated.

Thanks to the online platform Gather, members of the university community will be able to wander from poster presentation to poster presentation virtually, stopping by to listen and ask questions via videoconferencing. Oral presentations this year will take place as Zoom webinars that can accommodate larger audiences. Attendees can visit both poster presentations and oral presentations through links available in SURF 2021 Program.

During a traditional year, poster presenters would fill the Great Hall, delivering their presentations face-to-face with attendees. McKinnon Hall and the Lakeside meeting rooms would host oral presentations, with groups gathering to listen and inquire.

The goal this year is to try to recreate that intellectual and personal engagement that is key to SURF while also ensuring the health and safety of those presenting and attending, said Meredith Allison, professor of psychology and director of undergraduate research.

“This will simulate the traditional SURF experience as much as we can,” Allison said.

With Gather, attendees select an avatar that they can use to move from poster to poster within a virtual room. When they approach a poster, they will automatically join the videoconference and can engage with the presenter. The morning poster session will get underway at 8:30 a.m. and the afternoon poster session will begin at 4:10 p.m., with 110 poster presentations overall, with three poster “rooms” for the morning session and 2 poster “rooms” for the afternoon session.

The SURF poster rooms in Gather are restricted to Elon email addresses, so attendees must use their Elon email address to sign in. Click here for information about how to sign into Gather and access the SURF poster rooms.

Watch the video below to learn more about how to use Gather on SURF Day.

There will be three sessions of oral presentations — from 10 to 11:40 a.m., from 12:20 to 2 p.m. and from 2:20 to 4 p.m. There will be 124 oral presentations, and attendees can select which oral presentations to visit by clicking the Zoom webinar links embedded in the SURF 2021 program.

SURF presents students with the opportunity to present their research to a diverse audience that is broader than they might find at a conference within their academic discipline. The goal is for the presentations to be an opportunity to engage, not just present, as presenters field questions and process feedback. The virtual tools being used this year will help ensure that engagement and connection are part of the SURF experience.

Throughout the pandemic, students and their mentors have relied upon creativity and drive to continue pursuing their research, and adapting their research methods and goals to often challenging restrictions. On Tuesday, the hard work of these researchers will be on full display for the university community.

“We’re excited to be able to showcase the hard work of so many as they have undertaken meaningful and often ground-breaking research,” said Qian Xu, associate professor of strategic communications and associate director of undergraduate research. “Using these virtual tools, we’re hoping the university community will get a full taste of the variety of research being conducted at Elon.