Project Awards

Projects of Merit ribbon

SOARS 2020 Virtual Conference Award Selection Process

Over a four-day period after the SOARS 2020 upload deadline, 136 student abstracts were reviewed by the Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) — we identified 39 graduate and 97 undergraduate projects. Graduate projects were then evaluated for Project of Merit designation by a Graduate School Selection Committee; undergraduate projects were evaluated by an OUR Selection Committee with a student majority.

The Selection Committees developed review parameters for potential Projects of Merit and evaluated project abstracts based upon the following:

  • Complete distillation of the project communicated within the abstract (inquiry/question/problem, method of investigation, and results/current status each identified/discussed)
  • Clarity, precision, and effectiveness of language in the abstract, including for non-specialists
  • Organization of the abstract, effort, and quality of writing
  • Innovation, relevance, and/or creativity of the project itself

During the evaluation process, the OUR Selection Committee identified and addressed the need for another award category: Staff Picks. In some way, projects so designated fell outside the strictly-defined parameters shown above, but were understood to be particularly innovative, relevant, compelling, or creative.

Ultimately, 8 graduate projects and 14 undergraduate projects were designated Projects of Merit, and 19 undergraduate projects were designated Staff Picks for the SOARS 2020 Virtual Conference.

Afterword from the OUR Director, Dr. Karen Cousins

The term “Project of Merit” turns out to be a misnomer. There are many meritorious projects in this Virtual Conference – interesting, important, and ingenious projects. Each of you should be proud of your work and your accomplishments. I know I am!

But in the same way that judges walk through a poster session and select winners based only upon the poster and brief interaction with the presenter rather than the richness of the entire research project, so the selection committees made awards based upon a distilled representation of the full project. We did not evaluate the incredible posters or the thoughtful and beautifully-prepared sound recordings and transcripts. With great difficulty and care, we selected Projects of Merit and Staff Picks based upon what we could glean from the abstracts.

Staff Pick Ribbon