University of Wisconsin–Madison

SMAHRT Undergraduate Research Symposium Technology Project Experience

Studies conducted by the Social Media and Adolescent Health Research Team rely on the work of an interdisciplinary team. Team members have varying backgrounds in biology, psychology, english and journalism. SMAHRT’s PI, Dr. Megan Moreno, established this team design in the very beginning of the research team’s career. To maintain this team structure, SMAHRT provides several opportunities for undergraduates. At the beginning of this semester, SMAHRT welcomed three research interns as well as one communications intern.

The internship opportunities at SMAHRT are meant to provide undergraduates with the opportunity to build valuable skills that can be applied after graduation as well as contribute to SMAHRT’s ongoing research. Research interns are able to work on a current SMAHRT study and every intern is encouraged to work on an independent project.

Our interns for this semester presented their independent projects at the Undergraduate Research Symposium (URS). All of the interns worked extremely hard to develop their projects. Each individual project simply started as an idea and was later developed into a sophisticated research poster. SMAHRT created a detailed timeline and structure to aid the undergraduate interns in completing a successful project.

Step 1: Construct an abstract
The first step in the URS process is to create an abstract. This paragraph is a summary of the entire project. The interns at SMAHRT were encouraged to begin with a research question or idea. Once the idea was formulated, then steps could be made to determine the methods and purpose statement of the study. All of these elements were briefly described in the abstract. This process is unique to URS, most researchers complete the abstract after conducting the study.

Step 2: Rounds of edits for the abstract
SMAHRT’s URS timeline included three drafts of the intern’s abstracts. Each time a draft was shared with the team, there was a meeting were interns recieved detailed edits and suggestions from each team member. Interns were encouraged to make edits as they saw fit and to talk through their ideas with other team members. The finished abstract led to a research proposal, detailing the methods section of the project.

Step 3: Start data collection
When the abstract was complete and submitted, interns moved on to data collection. The undergraduate interns were given full independence throughout the duration of URS. Data collection was up to each individual intern. Team members were always available to bounce ideas off of or answer any questions.

Step 4: Create an outline of the poster
As data collection was wrapping up, interns were to start creating their posters. Most of them started by inserting their abstracts and working on the introduction of their project. When the data collection was complete the other sections, such as methods, findings and conclusion, could be finished.

Step 5: Rounds of edits for the poster
Posters underwent the same process as abstracts. Team members would provide detailed edits for every poster and answered any questions that the interns had throughout the poster process. Creating the poster was different than the abstract because it was largely a foreign process for the undergraduates.

Step 6: Prepare for the poster presentation
Interns were given advice and tips on how to prepare for the poster presentation. They then brainstormed possible questions that others would have about their study. Most of those who attend these poster presentations are looking for a shortened version of the entire poster. Before the presentation, interns created an elevator pitch for the presentation. One of the advantages of the SMAHRT interns is that they were given the opportunity to conduct the study from beginning to end. So much hard work and effort was put into each project that every intern knew their content by heart.

Step 7: Present the poster
Team members that were available to attend the presentations went to support and witness the hard work of each intern.
SMAHRT values their undergraduate interns because they provide insights and experiences that advance studies and ideas. At SMAHRT, each team member, interns included, are encouraged to share their ideas. This work culture would not be possible without the interdisciplinary team that Dr. Moreno established within SMAHRT.

Written by Maggie Bushman, Student Researcher, SMAHRT