COVID-19 may be keeping us apart, but it’s not stopping UFV’s Research Office from making sure the world knows about UFV student research.
When the University of the Fraser Valley made the decision to switch to remote teaching and learning and cancelled most events scheduled for March and April due to the COVID-19 crisis, one major in-person event was immediately in jeopardy.
The annual UFV Student Research Day was due to take place in Evered Hall on the Abbotsford campus on March 31. This is typically a crowded event, with hundreds of students on hand displaying and describing their research posters to a roaming audience of judges, faculty members, fellow students, and administrators.
The organizing committee, comprised of members of the Office of Research, Engagement, and Graduate Studies team, was initially disappointed and disheartened. Then they decided to switch rapidly into “Plan B” mode.
“In the first two weeks of March, after months of planning, we were faced with the very real possibility that UFV’s in-person events would be cancelled due to COVID-19 and social distancing,” recounts Danielle Mijo-Burch, events and communications coordinator for the Research Office. “By March 13, 180 students had registered for UFV Student Research Day and undoubtedly sunk hundreds of hours into their research projects and posters, and we did not want to let them down. By March 16 we knew an in-person gathering was no longer safe.”
But they were determined that students should have the opportunity to showcase their research, noted Dr. Garry Fehr, Associate VP of Research, Engagement, and Graduate Studies.
“We knew that this event is too important to students and faculty for us to be defeated by COVID-19, so we quickly developed a digital option. In the long run, there’s a good chance that the student research will be made accessible to more students and external community members by exhibiting them digitally. In a way, it’s making lemons into lemonade.”
So the planning team adapted.
“We decided to keep our original event date of March 31 and host the research poster competition online, by making students’ posters available on the UFV Research Office website,” Mijo-Burch reports. “Now anyone can enjoy UFV students’ work from the safety of home, judges can submit their scores online, and students won’t miss the opportunity to vie for the prestigious research awards they have been looking forward to.”
UFV Student Research Day is one of the most highly-anticipated events that the Office of Research, Engagement, and Graduate Studies hosts each year. Planning starts in November/December to secure a space and put things into motion to provide UFV students (mostly undergrads) the opportunity to showcase various research projects near the end of Winter Semester. Most enter the research poster competition, while some bravely sign up to present an additional two-minute micro-lecture in front of a live audience, talking about the impacts and implications of their research findings.
On March 16 the Research Office notified registered students, their faculty supervisors, and the UFV community at large of the new plan.
“We aimed to keep all communications positive with a Student Research Day Goes Digital theme. We highlighted the ‘silver linings’ of the situation: students would receive extensions to register for the event and submit their posters, and prizes would jump from $200 to $500 due to savings on venue and printing costs.”
There are now 190 students signed up to present 96 research posters, with projects from English, Visual Arts, Anthropology, Psychology, Sociology, Agriculture, Physics, Kinesiology, Nursing, Business, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Information Systems,and Geography.
“We are doing our best to support students during an already stressful time. They’ve put a lot of work into these research projects and in many cases are producing competitive, graduate-level work, and we want to honour and celebrate that,” says Mijo-Burch.
Here’s a sneak peek at agriculture student Chris Reed’s research via video.
To find out more about Student Research Day, go to