Esteemed Colleagues and Undergraduate Researchers:

I am profoundly honored and privileged to commence the Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) Fall 2020 Virtual Undergraduate Research Symposium and to welcome you all to our week-long, immersive, and interactive experience. During the week of November 16, undergraduate researchers from diverse backgrounds will depict a fine-resolution picture of UNLV’s rich and inclusive research ecosystem and will introduce you to our ever-growing undergraduate researcher community.

I would like to stress from the outset that we define research as a mentored, high-impact activity that bridges the gap between conventional classroom learning and discovery learning (a.k.a. active or experiential learning) and that takes place in every UNLV department, encompassing the entire spectrum of academic disciplines. We subscribe to a research education paradigm that places the emphasis on the process of developing and applying transferable and transformative research skills, such as critical thinking and problem solving, not on deliverables or end products per se. Our symposium aligns with this vision and reflects UNLV’s rich and diverse student population and their research experiences in different stages. 

OUR Fall 2020 Virtual Undergraduate Research Symposium showcases 163 undergraduate researchers and 117 research projects. In addition to students from UNLV’s 9 colleges, our virtual symposium provides a friendly venue and an unparalleled, multi-institutional experience  for students from University of Nevada, Reno, Nevada State College, Great Basin College, University of Texas at Austin, University of California Davis, University of Cincinnati, University of Rochester, and Louisiana State University. More importantly, we take great pride in the fact that Asian (35%), Hispanic (27%), and Black (7%) undergraduate students make up more than 70 percent of our presenters, reinforcing UNLV’s identity as a Minority-Serving Institution and Hispanic-Serving Institution. Please consult our symposium by the Numbers Page to learn more about the demographic composition of our students.

Undergraduate researchers: As it is clear that the impacts of the global pandemic will be prolonged, you may have to continue to deal with challenges due to remote operation or diminished capacity in the form of accessibility of facilities, faculty, and administrators; to connectivity gap and/or lack of space or time to work remotely because of economic constraints; and to potential limitations stemming from discipline-specific or departmental preferences that may disincentivize faculty to work with undergraduate researchers remotely. Despite these challenges, we will stand strong and strive to support you in any way we can. Please be reminded that we are one e-mail or webinar or phone conversation away! Please reach out if and when you need to chat about any aspect of your ongoing research or future research plans.

Taking this opportunity, I would like to offer my most sincere note of gratitude to those who support undergraduate research education at UNLV. I recognize and celebrate the outstanding research conducted by our undergraduate researchers, inspired and supervised by their dedicated faculty mentors, and supported institutionally by UNLV’s top leaders including President Withfield, Executive Vice President and Provost Heavey, Vice President for Research and Economic Development Olafson, and all the deans.

Special thanks are due to our faculty keynote speakers Drs. Eda Anlamlier and Kathryn Rafferty for their fascinating research and visible commitment to mentoring and inspiring undergraduate researchers. Mary Blankenship and Peter Grema epitomize excellence in research at the undergraduate level and also deserve a big round of applause for their poised and composed opening remarks. As always, we are beyond grateful for the support of colleagues, 42 academic and administrative faculty whose names can be found on our acknowledgements page, who are always excited to volunteer their time to serve as a judge! This symposium is the result of a team effort and I commend OUR’s Program Manager Dr. Rafael Oganesyan, Research Advisor and Communications Specialist Kira Tran, and Program Coordinator Susan Hall for their passionate commitment to enhancing research education at UNLV.

Thank you for attending the Fall 2020 Virtual Undergraduate Research Symposium and for giving us the opportunity to be a part of your research journey. At UNLV’s OUR, we say YES to undergraduate research and we invite you to join us!

I hope to see you all at OUR’s Spring 2021 Virtual Undergraduate Research Symposium in May!

Levent Atici, Ph.D.
Executive Director of Undergraduate Research
Professor of Anthropology