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What is URS?

URS stands for Undergraduate Research Symposium. It is an annual event at which students present their research and scholarship achievements in poster and oral formats as they would in a professional-style conference. The work needs to be conducted at UMSL (or under the supervision of an UMSL mentor) while the student was enrolled as an undergraduate student at UMSL. 

Who can apply to URS?

All UMSL undergraduates conducting research with support of a faculty mentor. Students are still allowed to participate if they graduated the semester before the URS (for example, Fall 2019 graduates are eligible for the Spring 2020 URS). Students currently enrolled in dual Bachelor’s/Master’s programs are eligible to present in URS if they completed the work during their time as an undergraduate student (work completed following graduation at UMSL is not allowed).

Is urs only for science majors?

Absolutely not! The Counsel on Undergraduate Research defines research and scholarship as "An inquiry or investigation conducted by an undergraduate student that makes an original intellectual or creative contribution to the discipline." Students from all majors are encouraged to present their work. If your presentation is appropriate for a conference in your discipline, consider applying for the URS. We encourage you to discuss further with your faculty mentor or the Undergraduate Research Coordinator if you have more questions about the appropriateness of your project. If you are concerned that your work may not be presentable in either poster, oral presentation, or display format, contact the Undergraduate Research Coordinator to discuss further.

What is the difference between research, scholarship, and creative works?

Realistically, most projects include a combination of research, scholarship, and creative thought. We suggest the following distinctions for the URS: 

  • Research: Typically characterized by evidence-based exploration of a question or hypothesis that entails working with primary sources and newly acquired data.
    • Examples include, but are not limited to: assisting with or designing a research study with newly acquired data in a campus lab, completing a research study with newly acquired data in a research methods or senior seminar or capstone course, completing a novel analysis of previously published data, developing, designing, or constructing devices, structures, machines, and systems
  • Scholarship: Typically characterized by evidence-based exploration of a question or hypothesis that entails working with secondary sources.
    • Examples include, but are not limited to: literature reviews, secondary analyses of literature or sources, theoretical explorations, proposals
  • Creative works: Typically characterized by theory-based exploration that yields a project that shows academic achievement through an artistic product or performance.
    • Examples include, but are not limited to: poetry, graphic design, or musical composition

Is the URS open to writers and artists?

Absolutely! We encourage writers, visual artists, composers, and performing artists to participate. You can choose to submit under "creative works" (e.g., a poem, graphic design, or performance) or under "research or scholarship" (e.g., primary source research or secondary source scholarship about literature, art, music, drama).

Is the URS open to group projects?

We recognize that research, scholarship, and creative works are often done in groups, so we encourage group projects. Only one application per group should be submitted.

Why should I participate in the URS?

Professional reasons:

  • Most disciplines now include poster, paper, or presentation sessions at their professional conferences; this will help you learn to create the poster, paper, or presentation.
  • In most jobs, you will need to be able to speak in front of an audience. Giving either a poster or an oral presentation will give you practice speaking about your topic to strangers.
  • Applying for professional conferences includes advance planning and a variety of applications. The mere act of applying helps you understand the process.
  • You can list this on your resume or CV. Students who take initiative and see projects through to completion impress graduate schools and employers. In fact, many competitive graduate programs expect professional publication or presentation experience.
  • You can network with the faculty, staff, and students who visit your presentation.

Mental growth:

  • The very act of having to create a poster or an oral presentation requires that you address your material in a new way. This opportunity allows you to complete complex analysis and to consider the implications of your work beyond the raw data. 
  • You could be speaking to an audience of varied disciplines and backgrounds. You will get practice in explaining your topic at different levels of theory and specificity.
  • You could gain confidence from your experience.

How complete must my project be?

Some research and scholarship is undertaken in stages, which might take years to complete; therefore, applicants are not required to have the full and final conclusion to their projects. However, the work must be well underway and the poster or presentation must be complete enough to represent a tidy and professional portrayal of the work, even if it is not yet entirely complete. 

How can I participate in the URS?

First, you will want to contact your faculty mentor on your project to see if they believe the project is appropriate for this venue. Then simply complete the fillable PDF sheet and the online application (attach PDF at end) to signal your intent to participate. You and your faculty mentor will then be contacted about next steps including opportunities for revision or final version of your abstract, printing any posters, and other vital information. 

will my project be edited or censored for the urs?

Barring any extreme examples of inappropriate work, it is between you and your faculty mentor to design and approve your final project. You may contact the Undergraduate Research Coordinator for assistance through this process, but should work closely with and contact your mentor first.

How much does it cost to participate in the urs?

There are no direct fees to present at the URS. If you present a poster project then the poster will need to be printed at an appropriate professional level. Historically, most posters have been supplied by the home department of the presenter or have been printed using URS resources. Contact your mentor first about printing options and then contact the Undergraduate Research Coordinator if you have any follow-up questions. Additionally, there is no cost to attend the URS if you have family or community members that you would like to invite to attend!

What should i expect during the URS application process?

Your first step to apply to participate in the URS should be to talk with your faculty mentor about the appropriateness of your project for the URS. Pending their approval, you should complete to the URS Submissions Webpage and attach the URS Application Sheet. The process for completing the online application can be found on the How to Submit to the URS information sheet. At this point, all information provided by you is tentative and can be changed at a later date. After we have received your application, your faculty mentor will be contacted to confirm their approval of the application. At a later date you will be asked to update all information (e.g., title, abstract) to your final version to be published in the URS program and to upload the final version of your presentation/poster/paper to the UMSL Institutional Repository Library for archival. Your mentor may also be asked to approve your final version.

What should i expect on the day of the urs?

Your URS experience will be as varied as all of the different projects represented. But generally, you should expect to arrive at the UMSL Millennium Student Center around noon for check-in. In the past there have been snacks and beverages available for presenters. All presenters should dress professionally in business-casual attire (comfortable shoes are recommended).

If you are presenting a poster then you will set up your poster with binder clips on an easel and large piece of foamboard to display. Historically there are usually around 50 total poster presentations, set up on the inside and outside of the MSC 2nd and 3rd floor rotundas. Once poster presentations begin you should stand with your poster and be ready to receive interested guests. People will behave differently, of course, but usually they will approach you, ask you to describe your work, and then may ask some follow-up questions. Sometimes you will be speaking to one person and other times a small crowd may form. At some point in the presentation range (roughly 1:00-3:00) you will also be approached by an URS judge or two to hear your presentation and give you some feedback. Judges are faculty, staff, and graduate students from campus and can be recognized because they will have a clipboard and nametag. They are usually friendly and you should feel comfortable telling them about your work or asking them any follow-up questions yourself.

If you are completing an oral presentation then you will be in one of the MSC small rooms on the 3rd floor. You will have a computer and projector available if you wish to utilize it. These rooms are relatively small and hold about 40 people, although a more typical audience for URS presentations in the past has been closer to 10 people per session. There will be multiple presentations in one session (usually three) and attempts are made to group similar topics in the same session of presentations. Each presenter will be allotted 15 minutes and there will be time for audience questions following all of the presentations. You should plan to be present during the entire session. There will be an URS judge or two to hear your presentation and give you some feedback. Judges are faculty, staff, and graduate students from campus and can be recognized because they will have a clipboard and nametag. They are usually friendly and you should feel comfortable telling them about your work or asking them any follow-up questions yourself. 

Due to the nature of creative works, your experience may vary, but you will likely be asked to physically display your work near the posters or be given a chance to present your work orally in a presentation session, based on what makes the most sense for your specific project.

At the end of your session, you are invited to join us for the URS Awards Ceremony where we will announce the winners of this year's URS! Feedback on your presentation will be available directly following the Awards Ceremony.


I have another question that was not answered here. who should i contact?

Please contact the Undergraduate Research Coordinator (Kate Votaw) for any other information or inquiries!