Dozens of information-related research topics were on visual display and up for lively discussion at the School of Information Studies’ second Research Day last week.

The half-day event brings together faculty, researchers and students of all grade levels to showcase their investigations and to offer a forum for them to share findings, locate potential collaborators, and obtain feedback on their works-in-progress. 

Kevin Crowston, the iSchool’s associate director of research and distinguished professor of information science, said that bringing faculty and student researchers together in one setting is an important academic exercise.  

“Research is often a very solitary thing, or something you work on with just a small group of people. To share your work with a research community like this fills a gap. You can discover synergies and potentially close connections with people that you might not necessarily know otherwise,” Crowston explained.

Steven Sawyer, professor and director of the iSchool’s doctorate degree program, agrees that there is high  value in making visible the hard work researchers are undertaking individually. “That makes what is shown on the poster become real and it helps show students that they can imagine their ideas and interests and turn it into research studies,” he said.  

Seeing the Efforts

Students also get the opportunity to talk to other researchers about their research experiences, Sawyer added. “So much about research is sanitized; by the time it’s published and when you see it in writing, it looks polished and smooth. Here, you’re seeing it in process, and that provides windows into the effort of the science.”

Doctoral student J.P. Rancey echoes Sawyer’s sentiments.

“This event is truly beautiful because it not only is an opportunity to showcase your work but it’s also an opportunity to get feedback on your topic and your discourse. Talking to faculty members here, I got different perspectives on my dataset.”

Rancey attended last year’s event, but had to ramp up his efforts by deciding to present this year, he said. “It is more of a job because all the fruits of what you’ve worked so hard on is at a stage where you can showcase it. Some students who have works in progress attend and are leaving today with better ideas.”

Questions, Feedback Helpful

Mahboobeh Harandi, a doctoral student, found that the questions some attendees asked about her work provided valuable insights on her dissertation topic, “Supporting Occasional Groups in Crowdsourcing Platforms.”

“I got a couple of good questions that helped me think through my topic again. Usually at poster sessions, you just present what you’ve done and what you plan to do. You rarely get the question that challenges your idea. But those questions have value; they make you think better and plan better for your research, and that was helpful for me,” Harandi said.

Doctoral student Niraj Sitaula, who is working with Assistant Professor Josh Introne, presented the poster, “Modeling Dynamic Contextualized Contagion.” The project explains how social pressure and a need for coherence affects how people adopt information. Sitaula said he was enjoying hearing how attendees liked the poster’s content as well as its interesting and colorful mode of presentation.

“It’s fun,” he said. “I’m explaining things that I’ve been working on and having to communicate them to different audiences.” The practice of repeated presentations of his topic were helping him better understand and articulate its main concepts, Sitaula said.

Ideas for New Tactics

Bo Zhang, a master’s student in computational linguistics in the College of Arts and Sciences, who conducts most of his research with iSchool Associate Professor Lu Xiao, was another poster presenter. He and Xiao have worked on the topic, “Distress Detection Using Prosodic Features.”

Zhang said his attendance was worthwhile because several doctoral students who saw his work offered practical feedback on different tactics they thought he could apply. Other attendees offered recommendations for potential student collaborators, he noted.  

“Listening and observing how the Ph.D. students present their research and getting help from the faculty has been personally pretty helpful to me to grow as a researcher, too,” Zhang added.

Megan Macblane, who is the iSchool’s Director Grant Development and coordinated the Research Day event, reflected on the way students, staff and faculty work together to help the event take shape. “The purpose of the event is to be an inclusive and supportive event for everyone in the iSchool and I think that shows even in how it’s put on,” she said. “There’s an excitement here, and I think everyone really enjoys the day and getting to talk about their work. What I’ve heard from several people already is that we’d like to see this grow to include more of our undergraduate and master’s level student researchers, and I think that is part of the plan.”

Crowston said future plans also call for making the research presentations more open to the campus community so that others within the university can attend to learn about specific projects and iSchool research areas and academic programs.

Header photo: Ph.D. candidate Qunfang Wu discusses her project with Prof. Michael Fudge. Photo by Charles Wainwright.