March 27, 2017

Research Is More Than A Lab Coat

Following the success of FURCA 2017, Brigitte Rioux, Communications Coordinator with the Office of the Dean of Students, provides a glimpse into the Undergraduate Research Initiative’s (URI) campus-wide celebration of undergraduate student research.

An interpretive dance on quantum dots may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking “research”. And yet, that’s exactly the kind of undergraduate work that was showcased at this year’s Festival of Undergraduate Research & Creative Activities (FURCA).

Crystal Snyder, Undergraduate Research Coordinator with the URI, believes this U of A event highlights the complex questions addressed by students, their passionate efforts in pursuing answers and their dedication to exploring their curiosity, beyond the walls of the classroom.

Since its debut in 2011, FURCA has evolved into something more than merely poster presentations. Taking full ownership of its organizing, URI has expanded the event to allow undergraduate students a means to cultivate their research contributions in a supportive environment that encourages creative approaches, connecting research to a wider audience.

Snyder and Tony Luong, URI’s current intern and an award winner at last year’s FURCA for his research in healing through vulnerability and storytelling, collectively believe this event creates a forum where students are emboldened to share ideas, reflect and converse with others and celebrate the rich and diverse research culture on campus and its impact on the greater community.  Luong attests the week-long event helps in dispelling myths that research is discipline-specific, or that undergraduate contributions are less impressive than feats made by graduate or post-doctoral students.  “Where undergraduate students might feel marginalized, FURCA creates an inclusive space to assist students in strengthening the skills they need to move forward with their research,” he says.

This year, more than 150 students representing 12 faculties across campus displayed their research in the form of creative performances, visual art exhibits, oral presentations, and a poster symposium. A total of 16 award winners in 10 categories were recognized for their achievements in categories including communications, interdisciplinary research, creative activity, early career research, international research, international student researcher, community connections, and healthy campus. Each presentation was evaluated by three volunteer judges who provided feedback based on merit of work, knowledge of research topic, and ability to articulate inter-disciplinary commonalities — a crucial aspect in terms of research success, according to Snyder. “A key factor in helping students succeed is the expectation they can identify commonalities between their research topics and its connection and relevancy across disciplines. Having this level of insight can lead to larger conversations that give students a glimpse into opportunities outside of their own immediate research and discipline,” Snyder believes.

For a complete list of this year’s presentations and award winners, visit