Research Day Encourages Collaborative Endeavors

Fifth annual event brings UM, UMMC researchers face-to-face

A UM student sets up for his poster presentation at the fifth annual University of Mississippi Research Day. The event brought together researchers from the Oxford campus and the University of Mississippi Medical Center to learn about one another’s research interests and possibilities for collaboration. Photo by Megan Wolfe/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Encouraging communication among researchers no matter where they are – whether three doors down or two hours away – the fifth annual University of Mississippi Research Day was held Friday (April 26) in Oxford.

Alternating each year between the Oxford campus and University of Mississippi Medical CenterResearch Day provides an opportunity for researchers at UM and UMMC to share their research and creative scholarship work and interests with colleagues to increase conversation and collaboration.

More than 200 faculty, staff and students from the two campuses attended this year’s event at the Jackson Avenue Center in Oxford.

“The purpose of today is to bring us together, increase awareness of what our colleagues do and discover mutual interests,” Interim Chancellor Larry Sparks said in his welcoming remarks. “Groundbreaking research is collaborative, and increasingly, it’s also interdisciplinary.

“We’re at our strongest when we build upon each other’s connections, strengths and insights. I encourage you to seize all the opportunities you can today to get to know one another and learn about your shared interests. Please approach ideas with creativity and a confident view of what we can achieve when we work together focusing on outcomes that benefit the state and society in general because this is the work and this is our mission.”

Noting the day was meant to foster collaboration and engagement, Josh Gladden, UM vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs, said previous Research Days led to success stories, whether co-authored papers being published or co-written grants being awarded.

“The goal with starting this five years ago was to find ways to increase communication between the Medical Center and the Oxford campus on research activities where we might build some collaborations – where we have tools, we have assets, we have expertise that we can leverage on each other’s campuses to build something larger,” Gladden said.

Beyond the information and idea exchanges, Research Day also is a celebration of what researchers do on both campuses, said Dr. Richard Summers, associate vice chancellor for research at UMMC.

“One of the unique things about an academic institution is that while we have the mission of education as a primary function … what really makes an academic institution something unique and what they call a research university is exactly that – the fact that they do research,” he said.

The event started with 90-second talks, where more than two dozen researchers succinctly broke down their projects, covering topics from heart attacks to the impact of sleep hygiene on learning and well-being to reminding people of opportunities to collaborate on the university’s M Partner initiative.

Josh Gladden, UM vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs, welcomes attendees to the fifth annual University of Mississippi Research Day. The event brought together researchers from the Oxford campus and the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Photo by Megan Wolfe/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

A two-hour lunch was split into several events, including a speed networking event where people could converse with 10 other Research Day attendees. Sitting across a table from one another, the networking activity allowed for five-minute conversations between researchers – covering academic backgrounds, research interests and collaborative research undertakings or ideas – before rotating to new conversations with different people.

The lunch period also included open information sessions with discussions on topics such as “Creating Your Evaluation Plan in 5 Simple Steps” from Sarah Mason, director of UM’s Center for Research Evaluation. Other group meetings explored technology commercialization at UM and the university’s Flagship Constellations initiative.

The atrium at the Jackson Avenue Center was lined with information tables during lunch so attendees could learn more about organizations that can help with their research efforts.

Following lunch, a poster session featured more than 40 posters from UM and UMMC faculty, graduate students and undergraduate students.

Austin Conner, a second-year Ole Miss graduate student from Orange Park, Florida, working on her master’s in social work, presented a poster on “The Voter Empowerment Project: A Comparative Community Needs Assessment of Rural vs. Urban Barriers to Voting.”

“Research Day appears to be a great place where you can network with students, faculty and organizations conducting or involved in research,” she said. “It is also a great place to become informed of other research topics and social problems. I was happy to learn about the Center for Population Studies (at UM) and all that they do.

“Participants seem to be attending Research Day for a similar purpose, which makes it easy to meet and speak with various people from different departments and organizations. I learned that there are individuals with research interests and topics similar or related to my own. I also learned of ways I can collaborate with different individuals.”

Jaret Lieberth, a junior biology major from Aurora, Ohio, also presented his poster on “Use of the Gal4/UAS System for Tissue Specific Analysis of Zebrafish Cardiac Development” during the session.

“Presenting my research is important to me because it’s a chance to showcase something that I put a lot of hard work into,” he said. “Oftentimes the pace of a project can feel slow and it can be discouraging, so it helps to be able to culminate everything into a presentation to show just how far the project’s really come along.

“Not to mention, I really enjoy taking the time to walk through my project verbally with people who show a genuine interest in it.”

Andre Smith, another junior biology major, showcased his poster titled “South American Poison Dart Frog’s Diversity in Toxicity.”

“It was very enlightening to walk around and see friends excelling in their majors,” said Smith, a native of Tylertown. “I learned that other Ole Miss professors and students are very supportive of me, providing me with the confidence and reassurance to keep pushing forward.”