Pictured: Undergraduate student researchers present posters to judges at the SURE Summer Symposium.
Pictured: Undergraduate student researchers present posters to judges at the SURE Summer Symposium.

SURE Summer Symposium: Turning research into dialogues

As summer at USask came to an end, nearly 70 undergraduate students had the opportunity to share their research experience at the Student Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) Summer Symposium on August 31st, 2023. The symposium is hosted by Research Acceleration and Strategic Initiatives (RASI), a unit in the Office of the Vice-President Research (OVPR), and is supported by the OVPR, the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (CGPS), USask Career Services, and RBC Future Launch.

18 PhD students, 11 Master’s students, and Postdoctoral scholars volunteered as judges for the event, engaging in poster presentations and asking questions as the students showcased months of hard work.

“This was the first year since the pandemic that the symposium has fully been an in-person event,” said Mandy Fehr (PhD), who coordinated the successful event, “Our team was thrilled that we had almost 70 undergraduate students present a poster and the great response from faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students who volunteered as judges and came out to support the students.”

Pictured: CGPS Dean Debby Burshtyn giving opening remarks at the 2023 SURE Summer Symposium. Photo credits belong to Arash Amanlou.

The SURE Summer Symposium kicked off with an address from Debby Burshtyn, Dean of the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. Burshtyn welcomed students and congratulated them on their research efforts leading up to the event. “Whether or not you go into research as a career, these summer research experiences are essential for grounding your practice in evidence-based thinking,” said Burshtyn, “Your ability to think critically and communicate effectively to different types of audiences will prepare you for whatever your future has in store."

In the spirit of supporting future researchers and highlighting the importance of research communication, CGPS sponsored the inaugural CGPS Communication Award at the event. The award was created to celebrate student passion for research and was awarded to an undergraduate student who displayed an interest in pursuing graduate studies and a strong ability to effectively communicate their research to a non-expert audience.

Pictured: CGPS Dean Debby Burshtyn presenting Ariel Tirado with the CGPS Communications Award. Photo credits belong to Arash Amanlou.

Ariel Tirado, a fifth-year chemistry student working under Dr. Ian Burgess in the Burgess Research Group, earned both the CGPS Communications Award and the OVPR Promising Future Scholar Award at the symposium. Tirado’s research involved using infrared spectroscopy to analyze chemical samples on copper thin films.

Tirado’s approach to communication is simple: Try to meet people where they are at. “You have about 10 to 20 seconds to gauge what kind of listener they are,” said Tirado, “Once you gauge that, you use that information to tailor your approach.” 

As a researcher and engaged member of the USask Chemistry Student Society, Tirado sees the value of science communication in expanding the public’s knowledge and getting people excited about science. “It’s kind of like scientific magic in a way,” said Tirado, “It’s very imperative for us to get people interested in chemistry because we want to grow that community. And a big part of that is communication.”

As the recipient of the CGPS Communications Award, Tirado received a $1000 prize, a certificate of recognition, and the opportunity to serve as a judge for the 2024 USask 3 Minute Thesis (3MT) Preliminary competition.