To see ReSEARCH Dialogues schedule and information:
The most significant academic conference at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is back.
After a one-year hiatus due to the pandemic, ReSEARCH Dialogues—the annual campus-wide compendium celebrating research endeavors at UTC—will be taking place in a virtual setting April 12-15. Live events will be hosted via the Symposium by ForagerOne online conference platform while presentations will be available for viewing on-demand.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for us to showcase all of the different research that’s happening here at UTC,” said Lisa Piazza, the University’s director of undergraduate research and creative endeavor.
“Even virtually, this event is open to the public. Once the platform goes live on April 12, presentations will be available on-demand that whole week. So if you are a conference attendee or a visitor, you can come in and engage with those materials at any point.
“But what’s important to note is that to access the live sessions, you have to create an account in Symposium. Once you do that, you can access all the live sessions.”
The event calendar includes a keynote address by Marcus Shaw, chief executive officer of Co.Lab, a nonprofit startup accelerator that supports entrepreneurial growth in Southeast Tennessee. Shaw’s talk will take place at 11 a.m. on April 15.
The daily live event schedule includes a welcome gathering featuring different campus members, a community or student panel session and Q&As with presenters.
During each Q&A, moderators will ask general questions about the research process. The sessions, featuring students, faculty and staff, represent a wide range of academic disciplines.
“We wanted to avoid that whole situation of having presentation after presentation because that is not as engaging as just having organic discussions,” Piazza said. “This will be a nice way to engage folks in the research conversation.”
UTC students and faculty will be joined by high school presenters from Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences, STEM School Chattanooga and Girls Preparatory School, along with a student from Tuskegee University in Alabama.
In addition, local high school students have been invited to attend the virtual sessions and learn about UTC.
“We can say, ‘Oh, we do a lot of great research here,’ but they can actually see that in context,” Piazza said. “ReSEARCH Dialogues is a nice introduction to what they can do if they come to UTC.”
About 670 total presenters are participating in this year’s event. All UTC colleges are represented, as well as 33 undergraduate Honors College projects.
According to preliminary data, 40% of the participants will be presenting at an academic conference for the first time, and nearly 75% are making their inaugural ReSEARCH Dialogues appearance.
A hidden by-product of ReSEARCH Dialogues is the recruiting aspect for prospective students.
“Because of the timing of ReSEARCH Dialogues, we are in the recruitment phase for our incoming undergrads, and this is a perfect opportunity to show off our campus,” Piazza said.
“It’s a great thing because you learn so much more about what you’re going to be doing if you come here. In terms of recruitment, this event is essential for UTC.”
As an open event, ReSEARCH Dialogues is an excellent tool for faculty and students to connect with area organizations and businesses, Piazza said, citing examples from 2019 such as faculty connections established with Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center and Erlanger Hospital.
“This event helps the community to understand the type of work happening here, and as a result of that, some of our faculty have made some outstanding partnerships in the community,” she said.
“So the full scope of ReSEARCH Dialogues is that this is recruitment in a diverse way. It’s a recruitment of students for UTC, recruitment of students for graduate school programs and a recruiting of community partners, too.”
The real power of this event, Piazza said, is that students who are involved in research activities from all over campus can share their work. And in some cases, UTC is just the start. A pair of student researchers at the 2019 event—Thomas Wiegand and Braley Gentry—used ReSEARCH Dialogues as a launching pad.
Accompanied by Professor Jennifer Boyd in the Department of Biology, Geology and Environmental Science, Wiegand and Gentry went on to present at the World Congress on Undergraduate Research at Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg in Germany. Their poster, titled “Using Network Analysis to Visualize connectivity in Ecology Concepts—An Exploration of Research on Species Rarity,” was based on their research at UTC.
Wiegand, now a UTC graduate student pursuing his master’s in environmental science, was recently awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. He was the second UTC student in three years to win the prestigious fellowship, joining 2019 chemical engineering student Olivia George, who is now in the master’s program at Georgia Institute of Technology.
Coincidentally, George is returning to UTC in a virtual setting for ReSEARCH Dialogues. She is one of the panelists participating in a live student research session at noon on April 14.
“Olivia and Thomas are great examples of students who participated in undergraduate research,” Piazza said. “It’s like a snowball thing; once you get in and get connected and you start that networking, a lot of opportunities come your way.
“The more that we send students out nationally and internationally, the more we can tell the story of what our students are accomplishing.”