In my four years as an English major at UTC, I didn’t hear much about the conference. Of course, I had heard the name “ReSEARCH Dialogues” a few times, but I thought it wouldn’t be a place for a creative writing nerd like me.
Boy, was I wrong!
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The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s ReSEARCH Dialogues Conference has been renamed the UTC Spring Research and Arts Conference, and with a new name come a few changes.
This conference provides a place for students to showcase their academic and creative endeavors. The event will feature displays, presentations and posters from UTC undergrads, graduate students and faculty. Community college students and community partners are also invited to present.
This year, the UTC Spring Research and Arts Conference will be a one-day event rather than the two days of years prior. It will take place on April 12, in the University Center.
To boost student awareness and participation, the Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavor has launched a student and faculty class engagement program. The new initiative is aimed primarily at general education courses comprised of mostly first- or second-year students. Professors can offer extra credit to incentivize their students to attend the conference.
Student participation benefits both students who visit the event and those who are presenters. With more student engagement, the presenters have more opportunities to share their work and hone their presentation skills. In addition to getting a little extra credit, students attending the conference will experience a program and may discover knowledge that will serve them well in the future.
The subjects of the presentations range widely. Last year, Hunter Smith presented a literature review on the use of wildlife detector dogs in turtle conservation. His poster outlined what his literature review found about the way sniffer dogs find turtles so researchers can document and conserve these turtle populations more effectively. Smith’s presentation also addressed advantages and drawbacks of various breeds of detection dogs.
UC Foundation Associate Professor Katie Hargrave presented on her 2021 exhibition, “Over Look/Under Foot,” which was shown at Granary Arts in Ephraim, Utah. Her exhibition took inspiration from five national parks in Utah—Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches, Canyonlands and Zion—and transformed the visitor experience and park culture into a multimedia experience.
Turtle dogs and national park media art are just two among a long, varied list of topics explored by participants of the Spring Research and Arts Conference. Many student entries are based on research in a variety of sciences and healthcare fields. Those with graduate school ambitions get practice at conducting the research that is in their future, and they can bolster their research and presentation skills, too.
Naina Patel, who graduated in December 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in biology, is one of those students. At ReSEARCH Dialogues 2022, Patel presented on “The Effects of Fatty Acids on Antimicrobial Resistance in Vibrio cholerae,” and her experience was overwhelmingly positive.
Patel said the conference offered an opportunity she hadn’t experienced before. “I was nervous as this was my first time presenting my research to an audience that was not familiar with my work or the scope of it,” she said.
Nerve-racking at first, Patel said, participating in the conference in 2022 better prepared her for the next steps in her education. “It prepared me to defend my departmental honors thesis against my committee.”
Presenting her project at the conference allowed Patel to look at her research from another perspective and better understand her own work.
“I learned to break down the material to make it understandable, relatable and explain why my audience should care about my research. I was able to show how this research could be implemented in the healthcare field and the changes it could make.”
The conference is considered by some students to be a great first step to a research-based career. Take Thomas Wiegand, for example. He is a master’s student studying environmental science at UTC and a Graduate Research Fellow at the National Science Foundation. His research focuses on the conservation of rare and endangered plant life.
“My undergrad experience at UTC was invaluable to me,” Wiegand said. “As an honors student and a student in the Biology, Geology and Environmental Science Department, I was afforded many opportunities to conduct research, present my work at conferences and travel for academic study.”
ReSEARCH Dialogues, the forerunner of the renamed UTC Spring Research and Arts Conference, gave Wiegand one of his first experiences in presenting research in a conference format.
“My presentation was focused on my undergraduate thesis research. It was a fun experience and a nice introduction to the world of academic conferences,” Wiegand said.
“It’s a valuable springboard for young students looking for a first conference experience that can open up new opportunities to disseminate their work outside of UTC. It led me to apply to more conferences locally, regionally and internationally, and I’m thankful for it. As a result, I was able to meet countless students and professionals in my field with similar interests.”
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Learn more about participating in or attending the spring 2023 conference by visiting the UTC Spring Research and Arts Conference page.