Hundreds of Penn undergraduates presented their summer research in Houston Hall at the Fall Research Expo sponsored by the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships (CURF).
More than 1,000 people came to see the posters and the students presenting in person on Sept. 19, the first time the event has been held in person since the 2020 start of the COVID-19 pandemic. A record 361 posters, the most since the Expo started with 18 in 2007, filled Houston Hall’s first floor and Hall of Flags. The projects involved a record 409 students, as several projects include multiple students.
“The overwhelming feeling I got was one of celebration and excitement, for the work that had gone into the research and presentations,” says Ann Vernon-Grey, CURF’s senior associate director of undergraduate research, “and of pride by the faculty members there, proud of their mentorship of these students who invested so much of themselves in these projects.”
In addition to those who visited the Expo in person, several hundred visitors clicked through the website Penn Presents, an online archive of each research project with a digital copy of the poster and a summary by the students. Penn Presents was created in 2020 to make a virtual Expo possible during the pandemic.
“We firmly believe that presenting your work is a fundamental part of the research process, communicating findings, talking about your process, sharing more generally, with your colleagues, peers, or general public,” Vernon-Grey says.
Working with faculty from the 12 schools, the students’ summer internships and fellowships represented a range of research projects. Many of the students secured funding for their work through CURF programs and grants, but several worked directly with Penn faculty on independent projects.
Most of the faculty and students met primarily in person, but some work arrangements included hybrid elements. By integrating videoconferencing, some projects were able to include participants in several places, increasing access for some students, Vernon-Grey says.
The annual Fall Research Expo is open to all Penn undergraduates who want to share their research with their peers and the Penn community. “These students are amazing,” says Vernon-Grey, “and we are so appreciative of the faculty who dedicate their resources, time, and energy to these future thought leaders.”