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Students share research findings at annual Undergraduate Research Writing Conference

Students presented their research findings at the Undergraduate Research Writing Conference (URWC) at the Livingston Student Center. – Photo by Hamza Azeem

The 11th annual Rutgers Undergraduate Research Writing Conference (URWC) took place on April 4 at the Livingston Student Center.

The conference had many components, including student presentations, poster display areas and an awards ceremony. This year, 75 panelists gave presentations on their research, and an additional 30 students made posters reflecting their work.

Arete Bouhlas, co-chair of the Undergraduate Research Writing Conference and an assistant teaching professor in the English Department's Writing Program, said that 260 students submitted their work to the conference for review.

She said conference interns and writing department staff review and score the submissions, and students with the best research papers are asked to either present their findings or create a poster on their work.

The conference includes students from various departments and backgrounds, with deans from different schools also attending the event, Bouhlas said.

"We have students that come from across every single major at Rutgers because writing is for everyone," she said.

Brandon Mark, a Rutgers School of Nursing sophomore, said he took a Research in the Disciplines course during the Spring 2022 semester and later received an email that asked him to submit his paper for the conference.

He said he enjoyed the public speaking aspect of the event and appreciated the opportunity to present his research topic of music and happiness. Mark said one of his favorite parts of the conference was the question-and-answer session that followed his presentation.

"We sat in there for 20 minutes (after my presentation) while people were firing off questions. It was really challenging trying to formulate answers for them that would ... leave them with more to think about," he said.

Lynda Dexheimer, the executive director of the English Department's Writing Program, said the conference allows student work to be highlighted and facilitates genuine conversations about research.

She said when they choose which students will be invited to present, event organizers look for those topics that are timely and of interest to most people.

"We are trying to find opportunities for the audience to be able to synthesize the ideas of our student presenters," Dexheimer said. "Then it allows for real conversation, so it’s not just a one-way interaction where the presenters are just presenting, and the audience is passively listening."

Similarly to Mark, Alexia Fraser, a School of Arts and Science junior, said she received an email asking her to submit her research and present her findings on parenting and LGBTQ+ issues.

Fraser said she enjoys writing and the experience of others appreciating her work in such a public setting. She also said she liked meeting the other presenters and learning about the different topics discussed at the conference.

"Being able to meet the other presenters and hear what they are doing … there (work) is also extremely interesting," Fraser said.

Amrita Tejwani, a sophomore at the Ernest Mario School Of Pharmacy, said she presented her research on the links between mental illness and polycystic ovary syndrome at the conference.

She said having a background in science allowed her to approach the project with a unique perspective.

Dexheimer said while academics may already be familiar with a research conference's format, students have a special opportunity to experience it at the Undergraduate Research Writing Conference.

"Conferences like this are a standard in the academic world. So we wanted to give students a taste of what that felt like, and we also wanted to give them some opportunities to hone their skills in public speaking," she said.

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