LIMELIGHT VP (Academic) Emerson Csorba is behind the research initiative.
The Students' Union is kick-starting its plans to host a symposium to promote and recognize undergraduate research, set to take place mid-November in the Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Science.
The symposium is in its initial planning stages, with decisions about possible themes, names and events that will make up the symposium still pending. Organizers have secured $10,000 in funding from the U of A's recently launched Undergraduate Research Initiative, a $200,000 investment that aims to connect undergraduate students with more research opportunities.
The initiative is being led by the Students' Union Vice-President (Academic) Emerson Csorba, a strong advocate for undergraduate research.
"Considering how we're a public research institution, with the [amount] of research that is going on, it's important that every student has that opportunity to experience what the university really values," Csorba said.
Csorba is aiming for 100 U of A undergraduate researchers to attend the symposium, a goal that he believes is ambitious but achievable.
Initial planning for the symposium has included assembling a planning committee, comprised of approximately 20 students and a handful of professors from various faculties on campus. Csorba said he was mainly looking for "passionate and engaged" students to be on the committee.
"The students don't have to be involved in research," he explained. "There's a number that just finished their first year and were looking to get involved in undergraduate research but didn't know how. Having that sort of perspective is valuable."
The committee is currently meeting once a week and is focusing on securing the logistics of the event. The symposium will also offer $10,000 in student awards for research, which will be funded through partnerships with key stakeholders like the U of A's Alumni Association.
Although Csorba believes that the symposium is a good stepping stone for the URI, he says it "can't just stand on its own."
"Having a strong symposium is the start, but the big goal for me is to make sure that it's not just the symposium, but a whole slew of initiatives."
Those other initiatives by the URI include the re-purposing of a space on the second floor of SUB into an office of undergraduate research in September and the launch of Yaffle, a centralized undergraduate research database in April 2012.
Although a future beyond this year for a symposium isn't guaranteed, due to the URI's one-time deal of $200,000, Csorba is already working on making the symposium a long-term fixture by working closely with the U of A administration and assuring that the next VPA will have a detailed transition report in order to facilitate planning for the next conference.
"I think there's a certain curiosity that students from the U of A graduate with because there is that focus on asking big questions," Csorba said. "But we still need to put more emphasis on achieving that curiosity and I think we do that through expanding undergraduate research opportunities."