Research symposium takes to Moodle for hybrid format


Photo Submitted By Thomas Mussig

by Ethan Humble, Staff Reporter

The Simpson Research and Creativity Symposium serves as an annual event for students to explore an area of interest to them and communicate their results to others; despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the symposium will carry on.

Over 100 Simpson students will be presenting their work virtually from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. this Thursday, April 22, a day with no regular classes being held.

Mathematics Professor Katherine Vance serves as the chair of the undergraduate research and creativity committee and says that while some parts of the symposium will look the same, others have required a little extra preparation.

“In general, the process has been fairly similar in putting the call out for students to present their work and for faculty to organize class panels for the classes to present,” Vance said. “But the logistics of Zoom have been a new thing for us to navigate. We have had to keep in mind Zoom security issues.”

The professor admits that during this chaotic year it has been difficult to get students to commit their time and energy to the symposium.

“With COVID, it seems like everyone is really tired. It has been a little bit harder to get people involved in terms of presenting and volunteering,” Vance said. “It has been a difficult and exhausting year for so many reasons, but I really do hope we can come together and celebrate the exciting and interesting stuff that all our students are doing.”

Among the estimated 110 students participating in the event, Vance says there will be plenty of different fields of study represented.

“We have students from all divisions across campus in humanities and social sciences, social sciences, natural sciences, music and theater, education, sports science, and many more,” Vance said.

The symposium will also be featuring keynote speaker Dr. Fatemeh Shafiei, associate professor and chair of the Department of Political Science at Spelman College, discussing environmental racism and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senior Thomas Mussig serves alongside Vance on the undergraduate research and creativity committee and sees the symposium as a chance for students to expand their academic interests one step further.

“Just getting an opportunity to dive into those questions and be curious to explore those questions not answered in class offers a lot of insight,” Mussig said. “It can open your education well past the classroom.”

Mussig, a finance and economics double-major, presented on Nigeria’s economic infrastructure his sophomore year and is presenting on the strength of the U.S. dollar at this year’s event. He would encourage all students to present at some point during their Simpson career.

“[The symposium] is easily one of the best opportunities that you can capture on Simpson’s campus with academic faculty that will get you a job, hands down,” he said. “If you can show that you are engaged and willing to ask those questions, employers are going to notice that, and they are going to want to be able to hire you.”

Junior Elise Sturgeon has three presentations at this year’s event and is happy to have the opportunity to share her work during this pandemic-filled year.

“I think [Simpson] is making the best of the situation. I glad we still get to showcase this work.” Sturgeon said. “For a lot of people, it is the only chance they really get to show what they have been working on all year, so I am glad we were able to make it work.”

Sturgeon sees the symposium as a great opportunity to not only present her findings but also to learn about new things.

“I really enjoy getting to listen to other people’s projects they have been working on,” she said. “I love talking about and getting to pour out all of my passion about the topics I have been researching.”

All Simpson students are enrolled in the Moodle course titled “UG Research & Creativity Symposium 2021,” where Zoom links to each individual session will be posted shortly before each oral presentation.

Access can be found on the same page to keynote speaker Dr. Fatemeh Shafiei’s 12:30 p.m. presentation titled “The Nexus between the Toxic Legacy of Environmental Racism and the Pandemic.”

Poster presentations will also be viewable on the Moodle forum, where people can ask questions and give comments in the discussion threads on the forum throughout the day.

The link to the Moodle course can be found here.