Researchers spend an inestimable number of long, quiet hours perusing books and articles, observing behaviors and interactions, disassembling and reassembling prototypes, reviewing data, and more. And when you think about the countless hours dedicated to activities like these, research can easily seem like a lonely, isolating endeavor.
But research is far from a solitary activity. Behind these hours spent alone are the ones in which people gather together and pose questions that spark new quests. These conversations drive researchers to collaborate with peers, mentors, and the community; to investigate and seek solutions; and to bring answers to the table for others to consider, question, and build from, keeping the conversation going.
UNLV Research Week provides a space for everyone on our campus as well as the Southern Nevada community to engage in these conversations, to consider the challenges we face together, and to talk about the solutions we’re all seeking. This year, through unique kickoff and closing event formats handpicked by Office of Undergraduate Research executive director Liam Frink, featuring community participants handpicked by Office of Economic Development associate vice president Zach Miles, UNLV strives to build on current research conversations and strike up new ones. Read on to find out from Frink what’s in store for attendees this year.
How did Research Week come to be?
The Division of Research and Economic Development noticed that some other universities had weeklong event programming for research. So UNLV Research Week started with us claiming our space, claiming a week last year to celebrate research. And it was almost as if everyone on campus was thinking the same thing we were and simultaneously decided we should start highlighting what we’re doing, so it was very successful.
The spring semester on our campus is traditionally about recognizing what people have accomplished during the academic year. The fall, though, offers an opportunity to welcome people to the conversation of research. Research Week sets the tone for new students and faculty on what’s important to the university and our community.
What can people expect from the division’s Research Week events this year?
The division is kicking off Research Week 2016 with a lightning talk series. Representing work in three-minute talks with three slides helps presenters build a quick, foundational understanding with the audience on their research projects. There’s a two-minute Q&A right after each talk, too — just enough to whet the appetite. The event has a community theme, so we specifically chose presenters from outside organizations and nearly all disciplines and stages of academia at UNLV—from undergrads to grad students to faculty—that have a strong focus on addressing the needs of our community.
This year’s wrap-up event, the Research @ UNLV Presentation and Tech Expo, brings UNLV and the community together once again, highlights our centers of excellence, and focuses on research that’s connected primarily—though not exclusively—to technology. The community is expressing more and more that they want to be involved with UNLV, but traditionally, there hasn’t been a lot of space to have these conversations. Research Week, however, is allowing us to easily create a dialogue between UNLV and people who are coming in, can see what we’re doing, and want to get involved. We’ll be creating a conference type of atmosphere where you walk in and see a lot going on.
What’s the value of having these research conversations?
When people participate in, question, or challenge others’ research, it helps that research grow. No research or creative activity happens in isolation. The heart of research is conversation, in the many different forms it takes: a review from a peer, a dissertation defense, even a question from an audience member. That’s true for scientists, artists, everyone. You have to have and participate in these conversations to keep improving the research, and to do that, you need to create and visit those spaces in which these conversations take place. And that’s what we’re doing during Research Week.
Are these conversations the ultimate goal of Research Week?
I do think we need to talk to one another more, and Research Week brings us together to do that. From a Top Tier perspective, UNLV wants to be in a position to provide an intellectual space and a workforce to the community to fill in the gaps where services might be limited. That’s what all the best universities do: They contribute to their communities. They create for their communities. We possess the expertise to do that, but it isn’t being leveraged fully by the community or our campus just yet.
When you start to listen to what’s going on on this campus, I think you’ll find like I have that it’s stunning. Research Week gives us pride for what we’re doing here at UNLV. And in some respects, isn’t that what all Top Tier institutions do — recognize and take pride in the meaningful work they do?