On April 13, the MSU Union Ballroom was filled with research posters, well-dressed students and eager event volunteers waiting to hear about exciting undergraduate research. I participated in the 20th anniversary of the University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum (UURAF) along with 45 other ComArtSci students.
Most people don’t expect undergraduate students to conduct research, much less those pursuing careers in fields outside of hard science. Nevertheless, ComArtSci students studied topics such as virtual reality, social media effects, health communication and diversity and presented those findings to volunteers, faculty and other students.
My own presentation focused on fake news in the 2016 presidential election. The project began last summer when Rachel Mourao, assistant professor in the School of Journalism, asked me to be a student research assistant in one of her upcoming studies. Our main goal was to piece together a clearer definition of what fake news actually is by reading over 600 fake news articles and analyzing the content. It was one of the first studies of its kind and, in my opinion, remains hugely important to society and the journalism profession.
Six ComArtSci students won first place for their research posters and oral presentations, including Jinghan Ni, who studied autonomous taxi user interface, George McNeil, who researched the treatment of acrophobia through virtual reality, Alec Comes and Terrence Peugh, who presented a story about an aspiring stand up comedian, Jacob Nitzkin, who studied stuttering in children and Alexa Seeger, who created a motion graphic to combat bias.
UURAF challenged me to condense my summer-long research project into a 32 by 40 inch poster and summarize those findings in an engaging way. Almost everyone I talked to was intrigued by the project and said it was extremely timely and relevant. The title of my poster alone prompted people walking past to ask how we tackled this topic. I feel extremely lucky to have been a part of the study and to have experienced the research process hands-on. I think it is something every student should experience, even for those who think of themselves as purely right-brained individuals.
By Rianna N. Middleton