Frequently Asked Questions
What is the URS?
URS stands for Undergraduate Research Symposium. It is an annual event (traditionally the last Friday of April) at which students present their research and creative achievements in visual and oral formats as they would at 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 the URS?
All UMSL undergraduates conducting mentored investigations or creative inquiries with support of a faculty mentor. Students are 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 appropriate).
Is the URS only for science majors?
Absolutely not! The Counsel on Undergraduate Research defines research and scholarship as “a mentored investigation or creative inquiry conducted by undergraduates that seeks to make a scholarly or artistic contribution to knowledge.” Students from all majors are encouraged to present their work. If your project is appropriate for a conference or other professional output 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 short oral presentation (common to conference talks) or visual presentation (commonly posters), contact the Undergraduate Research Coordinator to discuss how we can make the URS work for you.
Is the URS open to writers and artists?
Absolutely! We encourage writers, visual artists, composers, and performing artists to participate. We value your academic scholarship and would love to see it shared.
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. One member of the group should be identified as the first author for communication purposes and only one application per group should be submitted.
Why should I participate in the URS?
- 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. Sharing your project 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.
- The very act of having to create a professional academic 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.
- 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?
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 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 event. Then simply complete the Intent to Participate form on the URS home page to signal your interest and commitment to the event. You and your faculty mentor will then be contacted about next steps including opportunities for revision 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 you should work closely with and contact your mentor first.
How much does it cost to participate in the URS?
There are no direct costs to attend or present at the URS. Professionally printed posters do cost around $80 a piece to print. However, if students follow all submission guidelines (most importantly, providing a print-ready version of their final poster file) by all deadlines then the cost of printing the poster will be covered. If a student is not printing a poster, but incurs other material costs to participate in the URS, they can discuss the possibility of having those costs reimbursed with the Undergraduate Research Coordinator. 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 & planning 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 then complete the digital Intent to Participate form found on the URS home page by March. At this point all information is tentative and can be updated later, but it lets us start the planning process by knowing who and how many people plan to present. Check your email frequently for confirmations and updates from the Undergraduate Research Coordinator after submitting your initial form. In April, you will be asked to resubmit the final version of all of your presentation information. This information will be used for final planning purposes of the event, to gather poster files for printing (if applicable), and published in an event program. It will then be stored in perpetuity in a public archive on the UMSL Institutional Repository Library (IRL). Your mentor will be contacted throughout this process to approve of your submissions.
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 food and beverages available for presenters. All presenters should dress professionally in business-casual attire (though comfortable shoes are recommended).
If you are presenting a poster (or other visual display) then you will set up your poster with binder clips on a provided easel and large piece of foam board to display. Historically there are usually around 50 total poster presentations, displayed around the 3rd floor rotunda. 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, there to offer you positive feedback, 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 probably be in one of the MSC small rooms on the 3rd floor. You should have a podium, 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 about 12 minutes (15 total, including transitions between presenters) and there will be time for audience questions following all of the presentations. You should plan to be present during the entire one hour 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, there to offer you positive feedback, and you should feel comfortable telling them about your work or asking them any follow-up questions yourself.
Specific festivities have varied year to year, but you can also probably expect some food, drinks, and a short ceremony to recognize student participants and faculty mentors and to award outstanding presentations.
Feedback on your presentation will be available directly following the end of URS activities that day.
Covid-19 & Safety
The URS was held in a digital format (using Microsoft Teams) in April 2020 and April 2021. However, for URS 2022 & 2023, we are optimistic that we will be able to return to safe, in-person interactions on campus and are making all plans accordingly. The specifics of Covid-19 precautions are do evolve, but every effort will sincerely be taken to ensure that the URS is, indeed, a safe event to present at and attend. Specific policies will be determined closer to the date and will almost certainly follow the University's policies at the time. Although more details are not known at this time, you may reach out to the Undergraduate Research Coordinator at any time for an openly transparent response to any questions you may have about how Covid-19 may impact the URS this year.
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!