Miami Research Forum draws audience of over 400 people

She looks at her laptop towards 40 people watching her, waiting for her to say something.

She takes a deep breath and opens her presentation. She remembers working on this project all semester; she has no reason to worry.

She reactivates.

“Hi everyone,” she said. “My name is Rachel Goode and I will be presenting ‘The Evolution of True Crime as a Cultural Study of Deviance’.”

Goode was one of nearly 400 people who attended the University of Miami’s 2022 Virtual Undergraduate Research Forum on Wednesday, April 20. The event spanned 21 Zoom sessions and coincided with the Council on Undergraduate Research’s Undergraduate Research Week.

In a letter to this year’s forum, Miami President Greg Crawford wrote that the event demonstrates Miami’s model for scholarships.

“For 28 years, this forum has shined a light on our faculty and students who use research to extend University of Miami classroom teaching in labs, fieldwork, and in our surrounding communities,” said writes Crawford. “By analyzing data, designing studies to advance research, and presenting results, Miami students demonstrate essential skills for success in today’s global and interconnected world.”

Throughout the day, students ranging from juniors to seniors presented 231 individual and group research projects on topics ranging from the problem of dark matter to war in German cinema.

The sessions were facilitated by 32 volunteers, including university professors. An additional session, added this year, included a panel discussion on diversity, equity and inclusion in undergraduate research.

Goode, a sophomore in American Studies and Entrepreneurship, focused her project on white narratives of true crime. The independent study used Netflix’s “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile” as an example of true crime’s lighter portrayal of white criminals.

Goode liked to engage with a topic of his choosing, rather than a topic assigned to him in a class.

“When you choose your own research topic, you care more about it,” Goode said. “Research helps you understand the world around you in a conscious way instead of just consuming and considering the opinions of other people or news media companies.”

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Ashley Hoegler, a graduate in public health and Spanish, researched the paradox of obesity and food insecurity, which she discovered while working for a food pantry during an immersion experience in as part of her minor in Global Health Studies.

Hoegler said her project helped her deepen her knowledge of what was taught in her classes.

“Going into the community and finding out about things that happen in real life and using that to base my research on, it was eye-opening to see these things happening,” Hoegler said. “They’re close to home, and it’s very real, and it’s not just concepts in a classroom.”

For Hoegler, the appeal of the project was that she could take it in her own direction.

“I was able to go out and find something that interested me and felt important,” Hoegler said. “Although it was for my minor, it was very unstructured…so I was able to take control of my project much more than you can do in a classroom.”

However, Goode, a self-proclaimed procrastinator, said the freedom of her project sometimes made it hard to focus.

“It’s definitely tough when you don’t have guidelines, but it’s a good learning experience,” Goode said. “You will learn how your brain works best and the timeline of how you should get things done in your own process.”

Oana Godeanu-Kenworthy, an associate professor in American studies, helped advise the students in their research projects. This was his first year hosting a student presentation session.

Godeanu-Kenworthy said the research process teaches students many skills that can help them in their future.

“The most valuable thing is the experience of having done it,” Godeanu-Kenworthy said. “The experience of knowing what to expect when you make a public presentation, the experience of knowing how to organize your own work, how to do research, or how to pursue a research goal.”

Godeanu-Kenworthy added that students will be able to use this experience as they move on after college.

“To have participated in one of these undergraduate research forums is a mark of distinction for students,” Godeanu-Kenworthy said. “It’s really helpful in helping them hone skills that they’ll take with them throughout their lives.”

Hoegler said presenting research, rather than just submitting it, can help students improve their knowledge of the topic.

“Learning to present material to a group that may not know everything you’re talking about…in a way that anyone watching can understand is also great,” Hoegler said. “In the real world, not everyone knows the same things as you and doesn’t have the same basic knowledge.”

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Melvin B. Baillie