The Undergraduate Research Opportunity Conference, hosted at The University of New Mexico by the Undergraduate Research, Arts & Design Network (URAD), gives undergraduates the opportunity to spotlight their research, explain their ideas, and display what they have to offer in their respective fields and majors. The year's conference will be held in person at the SUB on Friday, April 21, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to attend and check out the impressive and amazing range of student research. The schedule is posted online.
Students can present on any research project they have conducted at UNM. Any majors can share their work and display it either as an exhibit or performance. Last year’s presentations included research on COVID-19, Southern Leopard frogs, immigration, too much homework, biofuels, ADHD, drones, food insecurity, binge drinking, Universal Basic Income, and much more.
Volunteers are sought to help with all aspects of the conference, including moderators, evaluators, and general conference support. The volunteer activities include evaluating posters, oral, or UROC 180 sessions by attending presentations and providing written feedback for student presenters; moderating oral or UROC 180 sessions — introducing oral or UROC 180 presenters, keeping sessions on time, and facilitating Q&As; and general conference support such as staffing the info desk, assisting organizers, and setting up posters. Anyone interested in volunteering can sign up online.
Students are urged to attend and could win a $100 gift card for the UNM Bookstore in a promotion sponsored by the Engineering Student Success Center and UROC to encourage student participation. Students can enter up to three times with one entry for each review/evaluation of each of the following: three poster presentations, three oral presentations, or eight UROC 180 presentations. No RSVP is needed but interested students who want to participate can sign up at the ESS's succESS web app for email reminders and a calendar invite.
The goals of UROC are to:
- Provide an opportunity for undergraduate students to present their research projects in and outside of the classroom/lab.
- Create opportunities for undergraduate students to network with faculty, graduate students, and the greater UNM community.
- Showcase the undergraduate research to UNM communities including donors, policymakers, local business and industries, and other stakeholders.
At UROC, students showcase the value of their research, whether it’s an art student’s multi-media project or an Environmental Science student’s research on fracking. UROC is open to students from all departments, majors, campuses, and fields. All undergrads are encouraged to share and explore any project or research idea, at any point in the research process. In return, they gain feedback and experience in a safe and supportive space.
Students participating in UROC can present their research in a variety of formats: an in-person 10-minute oral presentation; in-person poster presentations; a webpage, essay, or video that tells the story of their research; and in-person UROC 180-second (3 minutes) research presentations. After sharing their research at UROC, students receive additional feedback on their research and presentations from faculty, staff, and students.
URAD director Tim Schroeder described the UROC 180 as an elevator pitch: “It challenges students to present their research in just 180 seconds to a general audience with no background in your research area. Students are the experts at UROC.” The 10-minute oral presentation allows a more in-depth review of each student’s research, and the research story lets students explain how they became interested in their research. The posters are a concise, visual representation of student research.
The closing ceremony will be held in Ballroom C in the SUB at which time all presenters will receive a UROC T-shirt and the winners of the UROC 180 finals and UROC Research Stories will be announced and awarded their prizes.
The top three UROC winners will receive scholarships: a $500 first prize, $300 second prize, and $200 third prize.
The following workshops will be held on Tuesdays, from 12:30-1:45 to help students prepare for their UROC presentations. They will all be offered both in-person and online. Pizza will be provided to in-person attendees. An RSVP is encouraged, but not required. To learn more about each workshop, click on the links.
March 28: Designing and Developing Presentations
April 4: Data Visualization
April 11: Delivering Presentations
Schroeder noted that for students planning to go to graduate school, undergraduate research can make them more competitive for selective degree programs and can help them feel more confident in launching their graduate research projects. For students planning to go immediately into their profession, undergraduate research experiences will help them learn more independently and quickly in their new jobs.
UROC coordinator Jennifer Payne describes UROC as a low-stakes, low-stress environment where student researchers become the experts. According to Payne, students are excited at taking agency in their own research and enjoy showcasing their original work.
Kiyoko Simmons, a UROC co-founder from the Honors College, tells students, “UROC is a great place to start. It’s a great place to not only present your research ideas but also to get feedback so you can improve your research project.” Students also have the opportunity to meet other researchers, graduate students, and faculty members, “providing eye-opening opportunities.” Simmons says that these interactions serve as networking opportunities, where students meet like minds and experts in various fields and interests.
Sarita Cargas, professor in the Honors College and UROC co-founder, encourages students to participate and share their original ideas and research, no matter the topic. Cargas said presenting at the conference strengthens students’ public speaking skills and enhances their resumes and graduate school applications and that many students have been asked about their UROC experience in interviews for graduate and medical schools.
UROC is sponsored by the Office of Academic Affairs, UNM Grand Challenges, UNM College of Arts & Sciences, UNM Division of Student Affairs, UNM Engineering Student Success Center, ECURE, UNM Honors College, the Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program and the Research Opportunity Program, Office of the Vice President for Research, UNM School of Engineering, University College, University Libraries, and URAD.