Grants Help Students Present Research Online

By Katya Hrichak

Travel plans might be on hold but professional development doesn’t have to be.

Andrew Foley
Andrew Foley

Andrew Foley planned to attend the 2020 Academy of Management conference in Vancouver, Canada, but the pandemic interrupted his plans. Instead, he presented his paper at the conference’s online alternative, using Graduate School Conference Travel Grant funding toward associated expenses.

“It was still a fantastic experience,” Foley, a management doctoral student, said. “It was great to see how much work our community gets done even while distributed across the globe.”

Jonathan Sogin
Jonathan Sogin

Conference Travel Grants offset the cost of traveling to a conference with award amounts based on domestic or international destination. Since the pandemic caused academic activities to shift and most travel to halt, the Graduate School now allows the grants to defray the cost of attending online conferences – the benefits from which span beyond the monetary compensation, students report.

“Although the circumstances were unusual, there were some unforeseen benefits to attending a virtual conference,” said food science and technology doctoral candidate Jonathan Sogin, who presented a poster at the 2020 International Association for Food Protection Annual Meeting. “These benefits included unrestricted access to all presentations, an integrated networking system built into the online platform, and access to conference materials for months after it had finished.”

Tianyao Qu
Tianyao Qu

Tianyao Qu, doctoral student in sociology, similarly found that she was able to attend more panels at the 2020 Sunbelt Virtual Conference due to the lack of commute time. Chemical engineering doctoral candidate Xin Wang experienced the same bonus at the 2020 American Chemical Society Fall Meeting.

“Online conferences enable greater access because there is no need to travel, the cost to attend is much lower, and there is a potential to attend more pre-recorded talks,” she said.

While advantages to attending online conferences were plentiful, so, too, were the takeaways in their future applications.

Xin Wang
Xin Wang

“I gained skills required to create effective and engaging online research presentations, which I suspect will remain increasingly important even after the pandemic precautions and restrictions are lifted,” said Sogin. He added, “Presenting at the conference and watching several online presentations has also better prepared me to be a teaching assistant this upcoming semester, as I now know additional strategies to effectively engage students online.”

Attending a conference is a great way for students to use the lessons learned from online and hybrid semesters while establishing professional networks and gaining research presentation experience. Even when travel is once again permitted, Associate Dean for Administration Jason Kahabka foresees continued funding for online conferences.

“The key is not about travel, but supporting students participating and presenting,” he said. “Whichever form that takes, there’s a deep commitment to funding these opportunities.”

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