Carsten Rott

Carsten Rott


Professor Carsten Rott, who will join the Department of Physics & Astronomy in early 2021, has been appointed to the Jack W. Keuffel Memorial Chair, effective January 1, 2021. Rott will hold the chair through December 2025.

“It’s such a great honor to be appointed, and I’m looking forward to my arrival at the U to begin my work,” he said.

The Jack W. Keuffel Memorial Chair in Physics & Astronomy was established to honor and continue the work the late Jack W. Keuffel, a professor and pioneer in cosmic ray research at the U from 1960-1974.

More About Rott
For as long as he can remember, Rott has been fascinated by the night sky, the stars, and the planets. As a child growing up in Germany, he could see the Orion nebula, the Andromeda galaxy, and star clusters. He wondered what these objects were and what else was in the night sky waiting to be discovered.

He combined his love of astronomy with learning computer programing and was fascinated by the ability to write computer programs to model biological systems, fluid dynamics, and astrophysics. By comparing the outcomes of his simulations, he could check to see if his intuition was correct or if he got the physics right, which was invaluable in training his logical thinking skills. “As a high school student, I spent many months trying to understand why my simulations of rotating galaxies would not maintain spiral arm structures or why my models of stars weren’t stable,” he said. Struggling with such questions made him want to understand the underlying phenomena.

Rott studied physics as an undergraduate at the Universität Hannover and went on to receive a Ph.D. from Purdue University in 2004. “Becoming a physicist has at times been a challenge, but it has broadened my horizons so much, and I’m extremely happy I decided to pursue a career in science,” he said.

High-Energy Neutrinos
His research is on understanding the origins of high energy neutrinos, which are tiny, subatomic particles similar to electrons, but with no electrical charge and a very tiny mass. Neutrinos are abundant in the universe but difficult to detect because they rarely interact with matter. These particles originate from distant regions of the universe and can arrive on the Earth more or less unhindered, providing scientists with information about distant galaxies. High-energy neutrinos are associated with extreme cosmic events, such as exploding stars, gamma ray bursts, outflows from supermassive black holes, and neutron stars, and studying them is regarded as a key to identifying and understanding cosmic phenomena.

“One of my main research focuses is to look for signatures of dark matter with high-energy neutrinos. By studying them, we can explore energy scales far beyond the reach of particle accelerators on Earth,” he said.

While most of his work is considered pure research and doesn’t have immediate applications, Rott did figure out a new way to use neutrino oscillations to study the Earth’s interior composition. He spent several months at the Earthquake Research Institute at the University of Tokyo to collaborate with researchers on the topic, and he hopes this new method can help scientists better understand and predict earthquakes.

IceCube Neutrino Telescope
Rott has been a member of the IceCube Neutrino Telescope since the start of the construction of the detector in 2005. IceCube is the world’s largest neutrino detector designed to observe the cosmos from deep within the South Pole ice. The telescope uses an array of more than 5,000 optical sensor modules to detect Cherenkov light, which occurs when neutrinos interact in the ultra-pure Antarctic ice. When a neutrino interaction occurs, a faint light flash is produced, allowing them to be detected.

The IceCube Neutrino Observatory at NSF's Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station Credit: Mike Lucibella, Antarctic Sun

Approximately 300 physicists from 53 institutions in 12 countries are part of the IceCube Collaboration, which tries to solve some of the most fundamental questions of our time, such as the origin of cosmic rays, nature of dark matter, and the properties of neutrinos. The science spectrum covered by the IceCube Neutrino Observatory is very broad, ranging from cosmic ray physics, particle physics, and geophysics to astroparticle physics.

The team of scientists has already achieved some amazing scientific breakthroughs with this telescope. For example, they discovered a diffuse astrophysical neutrino flux in 2014 and recently achieved the first step in identifying the sources of astrophysical neutrinos associated with a highly luminous blazar, which was discovered in 2018. A blazar is an active galaxy that contains a supermassive black hole at its center, with an outflow jet pointed in the direction of the Earth. Over the next years, the team looks forward to making more discoveries by observing the universe in fundamentally new ways.

Life in Korea
Before joining the U, Rott was invited to Korea to begin a tenure-track faculty position at Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU). He took the opportunity to build an astroparticle physics program at one of the major research hubs in Asia. “I was excited to be part of a university that had the vision and determination to become a world-leading university, and I was able to build one of the largest astroparticle physics efforts in Asia, while accomplishing many of my research objectives,” he said.

He enjoys Korean culture and life in Korea, which is very practical and straightforward. “In Korea, people like to get things done fast,” he said. “It’s great to get rapid feedback, for example, on a proposal. You know quickly if your proposal is funded or not.” Being based in Korea has allowed him to collaborate more closely on other projects, including the COSINE-100 dark matter experiment in Korea and the JSNS2 sterile neutrino search and Hyper-Kamiokande neutrino program in Japan. He plans to spearhead initiatives to establish stronger ties between the University of Utah and leading universities in Asia and Korea.

Future Research
Currently, the IceCube team is in the middle of preparing an upgrade to the IceCube Neutrino Telescope. This new telescope will be installed within two years in Antarctica. For the IceCube upgrade, Professor Rott’s team has designed a more accurate camera-based calibration system for the Antarctic ice. Improved calibration will be applied to data collected over the past decade, improving the angular and spatial resolution of detected astrophysical neutrino events.

“The origin of high-energy neutrinos and any new phenomena associated with their production remains one of the biggest challenges of our time,” Rott said. “I’m extremely excited about correlating observations of high-energy neutrinos with other cosmic messengers. To establish any correlation, it’s essential that we can accurately point back to where neutrinos originated on the sky.”

Rott further explains, “We hope that the IceCube upgrade will be just the first step towards a much larger facility for multi-messenger science at the South Pole that combines optical and radio neutrino detection with a cosmic ray air shower array.”

 

by Michele Swaner - Physics & Astronomy News

 

The Daines Medical Dynasty

The Daines Medical Dynasty

Joseph Daines BS’68
Michael Daines BS’99   
Brad Daines BA’05

The School of Biological Sciences claims all of our alumni, but sometimes there’s a kind of harmonic convergence that elevates an entire family of U biologists into the spotlight.

Such is the case with the Idaho Daines Family of orthopedic surgeons—Joseph “Pete,”,BS’68; Michael, BS’99; and Brad, BS’05—a virtual dynasty in orthopedic surgery. Brian, who as an undergraduate attended BYU (the U’s traditional rival to the south) also practices orthopedics but in Arizona. The oldest son Gordon was the outlier. He found his passion in history and is now a university archivist with a doctorate in education.

The University of Utah Daines Dynasty goes back three generations, beginning in 1920 when the grandfather of Pete’s wife Susan--also mother to his sons--attended undergraduate school at the U and then went on to medical school in New York City, ultimately returning to the west to start a general medical practice in Preston.

Michael Daines, MD

Born in 1945, Pete was at first a math major at the U but changed to biology/pre-med before attending Columbia Medical School followed by an orthopedic residency at George Washington University. His father, who died a year after Pete’s return to Idaho in 1979, also practiced orthopedics in Boise.

Years later Pete’s son Michael would also graduate from the U and head east to medical school at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, followed by a residency in orthopedics at the University of Iowa. Later he was awarded a fellowship to Oxford University to study shoulder surgery for a year. He now specializes in shoulder surgery in addition to general orthopedic surgery at West Idaho Orthopedics near Boise, where he and his siblings grew up.

Not to be outdone by his older brothers, Brad entered medical school at the University of Washington following his graduation from the School of Biological Sciences. Subsequently, he completed a residency at the University of Vermont in orthopedic surgery followed by fellowship training in total joint replacement at the Hospital for Special Surgery/Cornell University. Brad focuses on hip and knee replacement which can include robotics.

For the first few years in practice, his father Pete was his assistant in the operating room. “I ended up not really quitting totally, from practice until 2018,” Pete says. In addition to assisting Brad, he provided medical evaluations for insurance companies, conducted independent exams and wrote up patient histories and reports for attorneys. "To have my dad with me has been an awesome experience” Brad said in a 2016 KBOI 2News story “because he is sort of a calming presence."

"How does it feel seeing three of your four boys following in your footsteps?" the reporter asked Pete in the same story. "Well,” said the patriarch, “it's sort of an ego trip, but I think it's great. I just wanted my sons to do something that they enjoyed." Says Brad, "Like my brothers, I always thought I was going to be a doctor. I didn't ever feel any pressure, but I noticed that my dad liked his job."

Clearly orthopedics is in the Daines Family blood, and clearly the University of Utah’s Biology Department--now the School of Biological Sciences--played a role in the family’s success.

Both Michael and Brad remember the invaluable experience they had in the Biology Undergraduate Research Program (BioURP) with Rosemary Gray, now an emerita faculty. Michael was a research assistant with Sandy Parkinson while Brad found a research mentor in Dave Carrier. “I learned a lot from him about the scientific method,” says Brad. “In addition, because his work did involve animal subjects, I learned much about the balance of the ethical treatment of animals and the need for scientific advancement. We worked with canine subjects, and the length to which he went to ensure good care of these animals was impressive.”

Brad Daines, MD and two future U Biology Alumni

Additionally, Brad really found his groove in the honors program and his upper level biology classes were also an incredible experience, particularly, he remembers, comparative vertebral morphology. Membership in the University Chorus and Sigma Chi fraternity gave him a musical and social outlet.

Both brothers recall the “incredible athletic programs” at the U which gave them a reprieve from the lab and the classroom. Along with sports, there was a love of the mountains and skiing. The combination of the Daines family legacy, recreational opportunities and the academic reputation of the U would converge for a memorable experience for both.

Michael’s research experience in the Parkinson lab was a segue for Columbia Medical, his father’s alma mater. While in New York City, Michael had the singular experience of living through the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Later, during his Oxford fellowship in the UK, he also worked on several research projects related to the shoulder.

An avid hunter, fisherman and triathlete, Michael enjoys spending time with his three kids, along with his hunting dog “Hawkeye.”

For all of the Daines, there have, of course, been challenges due to the current pandemic, including for Brian in Arizona who, his father remarks, finds himself overworked, doing “everything” related to joint medicine in a small clinic.

“I traveled a lot with my wife,” says Pete, remembering pre-COVID-19 times when he floated European rivers through places like Budapest and Vienna, sometimes through spectacular tunnels 30 miles long. A music enthusiast, he also sang bass in a choir and for five years sat on the board of the Boise Philharmonic. Along with Michael Brad also loves to fish and with his father enjoys music, opera in particular.

While the pandemic has slowed these activities, it has consorted to bring the family, which now includes thirteen grandchildren, closer together. Clearly the spread of the coronavirus has impacted the Daines and their respective medical practices just as it did Pete’s early relatives during the 1918 flu pandemic. “It was a bad pandemic as well,” Pete says, referencing family letters left behind, but “nothing like this one. [Back then] they lost family, this, that and the other thing. It took two years to get past it. That’s what it does. It comes and turns your life upside down.” Even so, he says, the earlier pandemic didn’t keep people out of work as much as the current one.

Says Michael, “I have had to navigate the need to care for patients and also keep my office staff safe. As a small business owner, we have had to find creative solutions to keep people working and keep the doors open.” Brad, too, has had to make the adjustments to the way he works.  “Life is always uncertain,” he says, referring to the past year. His advice? “Remain flexible and do the best you can every day. Embrace the fact that life will take you down unexpected paths. Upon reflection, many of the best things in my life happened when my plan deviated.”

Michael agrees: “Take your opportunities when they come up and have no fear!”

Will the Daines tradition of orthopedic surgery carry on into the next generation? “I think there’s going to be some of my grandkids going into medicine,” says Pete. “It probably isn’t going to be the conglomeration [of a medical life] like I got. I don’t know how that happened,” he quips, referring to three-fourths of his progeny who are surgeons.

“They just wanted to go and they did. Back then I could take my kids into the operating room with proper supervision and they could watch things. You can’t do that now. It’s not allowed. I had that opportunity to have some stuff in the operating room and I think that cemented for them going into medicine…. I didn’t mean for them to all become doctors, but that’s what happened. I’m very proud of them.”

As for Brad, his children are still too young (7 and 5) to have shown any interest in a career in medicine-- yet."

by David Pace

David Hillyard

David HillyARD

 

 

When David Hillyard, BS’73, was recognized in November with a Healthcare Hero Award, he was quick to share the love. “This honor should really go to the fantastic team of individuals I’ve been working with who have made high-capacity, quality COVID testing possible,” Hillyard said. “It’s very flattering, but every day I just think about the critical contributions front-line laboratory workers make for this effort every day.”

The sentiment is typical of the collaborative and generous nature of the Professor of Pathology at the University of Utah School of Medicine and founding Director of Molecular Infectious Disease Testing at ARUP, the largest academic laboratory in the country.

“This year, Utah’s healthcare leaders went above and beyond, pivoting their time, creativity, ingenuity, and magnanimity to face off against a global pandemic,” read the Utah Business citation. “This is only the beginning of our nation’s battle against COVID-19 … and we are so grateful to these warriors for leading the charge.”

Hillyard’s interest in the U started with a love of Ute basketball in the era of its legendary coach Jack Gardner, known as “the Fox,” who shepherded five All Americans, including Billy “The Hill” McGill.

“In high school, I visited the U for hosted debate and drama competitions and got a glimpse of its campus. I never thought I could afford to go out-of-state for college and saved all of my earnings … to be able to pay for at least a first year at the U.”  Scores of lawn mowings later and he had tuition which at that time was $175 per quarter. “I also had the academic blessing,” he says,“ of my Uncle Charlie, a renowned nuclear physicist, who received his PhD at the U and gave the science departments a high rating.”

Hillyard’s acceptance to the U was transformative for the Ogden native whose “first rate education” in biology and chemistry was elevated by the extraordinary opportunity to participate in basic research beginning his sophomore year. Professor K. Gordon Lark would arrive during Hillyard’s sojourn in the Department of Biology, now the School of Biological Sciences, and the legendary chair, who passed away in April, turbo-charged the department with newly recruited faculty of outstanding molecular biologists and distinguished visiting professors.

The expanding breadth and rigor of the department was an accelerant to Hillyard, allowing for him graduate level exposure to biology as an undergraduate but most importantly, he says, personal mentoring in bioresearch in “a thrillingly fun environment. Without question, these short years were the foundation for a happy career and any professional successes to come.”

As an undergraduate in Dr. Baldomero “Toto” Olivera’s lab, he worked on differences in pathways and magnitude of turnover of the metabolic cofactor NAD in e. colio and Hela cells.  “My fondest memories of my time at the U are informal dinner parties with lab mates and visiting scientists at the home of [Toto]” he recalls, adding that the “[l]ate night jaunts with Toto to the Roadway Inn for apple pie ala mode and experiment planning rank way up there too.” Many would agree with him that Olivera’s mentoring of undergraduates at the U is legendary.

Later, with the advent of polymerase chain reaction (PCR), a kind of molecular photocopying now commonly used in biology labs, Hillyard collaborated with Olivera on the identification and cloning of conopeptide genes from venomous marine snails, groundbreaking work that has since been widely celebrated as a potential replacement for opioids and their vaulting addictive properties. “As a clinical pathologist,” says Hillyard, “my work has focused on molecular infectious disease test development and the clinical application of these tests.”

Following graduation from the U, Hillyard pursued medical training at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City along with fellowship training in pathology. He then returned to the U for fellowship training in microbial genetics and medical microbiology followed by a position as assistant investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the U’s School of Medicine. He also joined the faculty of the Department of Pathology.

Hillyard figured prominently in establishing a test to meet the nationwide demand for diagnosing COVID-19. Beginning in January he and researchers at ARUP validated one of the first high-throughput diagnostic COVID-19 tests in the nation. With Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in late February 2020, Hillyard and his team worked around the clock to ensure they had a test ready to launch in March with a turnaround time of less than two weeks.

More recently Hillyard and his team have worked on developing co-tests for Covid-19/Flu AB/ and respiratory syncytial virus. “The scale and urgency of the project has certainly been challenging and a bit life changing,” he confesses, “but is dwarfed by the positive experiences of working with teams of dedicated laboratorians stepping up to the plate with their hard work, problem-solving, and commitment to do good.”

“There are so many surprises with COVID-19 that you’re never fully prepared, no matter how ready you think you are,” said Hillyard in the Utah Business profile in November, as he described preparing for flu season with cases continuing to rise. “The flu season hasn’t been very bad in the southern hemisphere this year, perhaps because of physical distancing and other measures taken to mitigate COVID-19 spread, but the flu will come.”

The good doctor’s COVID-19 research has been in collaboration with Boston-based Ginkgo Bioworks whose co-founder Reshma Shetty is another celebrated alum of the Olivera lab. Together with other government and non-profit health organizations they’ve studied the genetics of the virus in Utah and analyzed how its molecular makeup is evolving. The consortium has also conducted a major study comparing testing accuracy across different labs and instrument platforms.

No doubt the pandemic has been a singular time for all of us, but being on the frontlines of infectious disease testing has put a megaphone on all of it for Hillyard. Beyond family, he takes refuge in bicycling, especially hill climb racing. “I also love hiking, photography and as a wellness advocate for my department, [I] enjoy keeping up on the latest in food science. Unfortunately," he admits, "I’m a terrible cook."

Terrible in the kitchen or not, in his typical generous fashion Hillyard is quick to offer thoughtful advice to the next generation of scientists and health professionals. “[T]rain broadly, recognizing the importance of multiple skill sets for a successful career,” he says. “I would also suggest seeking out the best mentors at the best institutions in an environment where you can build personal relationships and also have fun.”

Dr. David Hillyard is a model U Biology alumni, transforming his immersion in undergraduate research with star, engaged faculty to a most elevated and award-winning legacy underscored by public service.

Uncle Charlie, it turns out, was right.

 

 
by David Pace
 

Mission Unstoppable

 

Mission Unstoppable


Watch chemistry professor and mixed martial artist, Dr. Janis Louie, on CBC television's Mission Unstoppable. Dr. Louie uses exercise to show how science solutions play an important role in our bodies.

Born and raised in San Francisco.– Dr. Louie earned degrees and honed her chemistry skills at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Yale University, and the California Institute of Technology (CalTech) before settling in Salt Lake City and joining the faculty in the University of Utah Department of Chemistry. Her research is centered on the discovery, development, and utilization of transition metal catalyzed reactions to overcome obstacles in traditional synthetic approaches.  Dr Louie's honors include the Cope Scholar Award, the Camille-Dreyfus Teacher Scholar Award, and the inaugural AAAS If/Then Ambassadorship.

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Outstanding Undergraduate

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Eliza Diggins

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2021 Churchill Scholar

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Priyam Patel

Priyam patel


Visualizing the Topology of Surfaces

Imagine a surface that looks like a hollow doughnut. The “skin” of the doughnut has no thickness and is made of stretchy, flexible material. “Some of my favorite mathematical problems deal with objects like this–surfaces and curves or loops on such surfaces,” said Priyam Patel, assistant professor of mathematics, who joined the Math Department in 2019. “I like how artistic and creative my work feels, and it’s also very tangible since I can draw pictures representing different parts of a problem I’m working on.”

Patel works in geometry and topology. The two areas differ in that geometry focuses on rigid objects where there is a notion of distance, while topological objects are much more fluid. Patel likes studying a geometrical or topological object extensively so that she’s able to get to know the space, how it behaves, and what sort of phenomena it exhibits. In her research, Patel’s goals are to study and understand curves on surfaces, symmetries of surfaces, and objects called hyperbolic manifolds and their finite covering spaces. Topology and geometry are used in a variety of fields, including data analysis, neuroscience, and facial recognition technology. Patel’s research doesn’t focus on these applications directly since she works in pure mathematics.

Challenges as a Minority

Patel became fascinated with mathematics in high school while learning to do proofs. She was fortunate to have excellent high school math teachers, who encouraged her to consider majoring in math in college. “When I was an undergraduate at New York University (NYU), I had a female professor for multivariable calculus who spent a lot of time with me in office hours and gave me challenging problems to work on,” said Patel. “She was very encouraging and had a huge impact on me.”

As a woman of color, Patel often felt out of place in many of her classes at NYU. Later, she was one of a handful of women accepted into a Ph.D. program at Rutgers University. Unfortunately, these experiences led to strong feelings of “impostor syndrome” for her as a graduate student. Eventually, she overcame them and learned to celebrate her successes, focusing on the joy that mathematics brings to her life. She has also worked to find a community of mathematicians to help support her through the tough times. “I’ve received a lot of encouragement from friends and mentors both in and outside of my math community,” she said. “I feel especially fortunate to have connected with strong women mentors in recent years.”

Mentors and Outside Interests

Feng Luo, professor of mathematics at Rutgers, was Patel’s Ph.D. advisor, and he played an active role in the early years of her math career. “Talking about math with Dr. Luo is always a positive experience, and his encouragement has been pivotal to my success as a mathematician,” said Patel. Another mentor is Alan Reid, chair and professor of the Department of Mathematics at Rice University. Patel notes that there are many aspects to being a mathematician outside of math itself, and these mentors have helped her navigate her career and offered support, encouragement, and advice.

Patel loves mathematics but makes time for other things in life. She enjoys rock climbing, yoga, dancing, and painting. Music is also a huge part of her life, and she sings and plays the guitar.

Future Research

Patel is currently working on problems concerning groups of symmetries of certain surfaces. Specifically, she has been studying the mapping class groups of infinite-type surfaces, which is a new and quickly growing field of topology. “It’s quite exciting to be at the forefront of it. I would like to tackle some of the biggest open problems in this area in the next few years, such as producing a Nielsen-Thurston type classification for infinite-type surfaces,” she said. She is also interested in the work of Ian Agol, professor of mathematics at Berkeley, who won a Breakthrough Prize in 2012 for solving an open problem in low-dimensional topology. Patel would like to build on Agol’s work in proving a quantitative version of his results. Other areas she’d like to explore are the combinatorics of 3-manifolds and the theory of translation surfaces.

 

by Michele Swaner

 

COVID Connections

Creating a Virtual Symposium


Tanya Vickers

Rising to the Challenge

Science is about preparing the next generation of innovators, explorers, and connoisseurs of curiosity. For the last 29 years the College of Science ACCESS program has been the “first step” on this journey of discovery. The ACCESS program runs from June to August and is open only to first-year students freshmen and transfers).

A cornerstone of the ACCESS experience is the opportunity for the student cohort to share their work with faculty and peers during a research poster symposium. The symposium is a powerful learning experience that mirrors professional science conferences and a career in the field, and plays a key role in the program.

When COVID-19 hit the U.S., the longstanding tradition of the Spring Research Symposium was in jeopardy. As the director of ACCESS , I was driven to find a way to continue the capstone symposium, and provide talented first-year student scientists the opportunity to showcase their research, in spite of social distancing.

With just six weeks until the event we decided to design, build, and launch a novel virtual research symposium platform. The sudden shift and short time-frame presented a real challenge, but it was also an opportunity to pursue and explore innovative approaches to current standards that, if not for CO VID-19, would have been stagnant.

It’s been six months since the Virtual Symposium, and we are still surprised by its success. The merits and results of the virtual platform challenged the notion that in-person is best. The in-person symposium normally saw about 200 guests. In contrast, the virtual symposium reeled in nearly 6,000-page views in three days and 260 guests attended the live zoom presentations.

Thinking Differently

COVID-19 upended and reshaped our everyday lives and challenged everyone to find new approaches to routine activities and novel fixes for nascent problems, much like scientists do on a regular basis.

When the on-campus student research experience was cut short in March, it didn’t mark the end of learning for the 2019-2020 ACCESS cohort. Research faculty agreed to continue mentoring remotely, which included helping the students report their research in a scientific poster they would present virtually. Unfortunately, the technology for a virtual research poster presentation did not exist.

That’s when I began the process of envisioning and creating the Virtual Symposium platform, as it’s now known. I started with identifying the critical elements of an in-person research symposium and considering how to transpose them to a virtual model. My experience teaching and using Canvas (used to deliver course content) shaped the content, and with the collaboration and support of Micah Murdock, Associate Director of Teaching and Learning Technologists (TLT ), a novel virtual research symposium was fully realized.

Embracing Technology

The platform was a lofty goal that required three defining features: a webpage for students to introduce their project, a message board for peers, guests, and mentors to pose questions, and a live Zoom presentation with question and answer.

Each student had a personal webpage that included their research poster, a 3-minute video summary of their research project, and a short personal bio. These elements provided guests with an introduction and interactions analogous to an in-person symposium.

In-person symposia can feel rushed, but the virtual platform offered the advantage of providing guests more time to preview projects on their own, before using one, or both, forum tools—the student scientist’s discussion board, or the 30-minute Zoom live session scheduled on the last day—to ask questions or comment.

Building For the Future

Throughout this process, we wanted to build a tool with the future, as well as other disciplines and applications, in mind. We are proud to announce that the platform has already seen use for the School of Biological Sciences Virtual Retreat, ACCESS Alumni Career Panel, and a number of campus-wide projects. Most recently, the Virtual Symposium was chosen to serve as the cornerstone of the new College of Science high school outreach platform SCIENCE NO W—engaging students, presenters, and elite scientists from across the U.S. and around the world.

As a species and as scientists, we always look forward to new ideas and what can be done. In our darkest hours, we find a space for new forms of unity and growth, and can challenge ourselves to create and expand. CO VID has been undeniably difficult, but the development of new platforms and technologies, like the Virtual Research Symposium, show that sometimes, when we are forced to make changes to long held traditions, the outcome goes beyond finding an equivalent, making what we thought was “best” even better.

Special thanks to Dean Peter Trapa, ACCESS Program Manager, Samantha Shaw, and to the ACCESS students and mentors for believing in the vision of a Virtual Research Symposium.

For more information on the Virtual Symposium platform contact: tanya.vickers@utah.edu.

 

by Tanya Vickers