Gustavus Research Students Present at Virtual Midstates Consortium for Math and Sciences Posted on February 21st, 2022 by

Ha Le (’22) and Junming Wu (’22) presented a poster on their research on Twitch streaming at the Midstates weekend for Math, Physical Sciences, and Computer Science.

In November, fifteen Gusties presented their research at the Midstates Consortium for Math and Sciences. Founded in 1988, Midstates is an opportunity for students from Gustavus and other private colleges in the Midwest to formally present their research to other undergraduate researchers, graduate students, professors, and principal investigators (PIs).

Midstates occurs every year over two weekends in November. The first weekend features student research in psychology and biological sciences and the second weekend is dedicated to math, physical sciences, and computer science. Students choose whether to give an oral or poster presentation and the application process for both is fairly simple, with an abstract or poster submission required, respectfully.

Midstates is usually held in-person at the University of Chicago or the University of Washington in St Louis, but it has been held virtually the last two years. This has given students unique opportunities and challenged them to adapt their presentations to an online format.

One opportunity was a virtual information session with a panel of graduate students held on the Friday before both student presentation weekends. The panel gave students a chance to learn more about the grad school application process and what research looks like at the graduate level. Kimberly Hareland (Biochem, ’24) said her biggest takeaway from attending the panel was how many opportunities there are in research fields after graduating from Gustavus. The panelists advised her to “shadow people [in your field] and get other people’s experiences to figure out what you want to do.”

Another advantage of holding the conference online was the ease of attendance for Gusties involved in many different activities. For example, Clara Billings (Biology, ’23) was able to give her oral presentation from a hotel room in Illinois and then play in an away game for the Gustavus Women’s Hockey team later that afternoon.

Because Midstates covers research from diverse topic areas in one weekend, it is also an opportunity for students to learn about fields of research not in their major, keeping in theme with Gustavus’ liberal arts education. Luke Dragseth (Environmental Studies, Biology ’23) said his biggest takeaway from Midstates was seeing the “broader scale of the research community” and “learning different styles” of presenting research from fellow students.

Annika Silverberg (Psychology, Chemistry ’22) presented a poster at the Midstates conference for Math, Physical Sciences, and Computer Science.

While adapting to the online format did pose some challenges because, as Haley Jostes (Chemistry, Biochem ’23) said, “you’re presenting over a screen so it’s harder to gauge audience reactions,” Gusties were able to overcome low levels of online audience feedback through support from their research advisors and the interest of other students attending their presentations.

Ha Le (Computer Science, ’22) and her research partner Junming Wu (Computer Science, ’22) tackled the challenge of presenting a poster in a breakout room by “making their poster succinct” and “highlighting their results more than the process.” The posters from student presentations were also published on the Midstates website and will be available for viewing until next year’s conference.

All students interviewed encouraged other Gustavus research students to participate in Midstates next year. Jostes, who presented orally at Midstates this year, recommends starting with the Fall Research Symposium at Gustavus and then using that presentation experience to transition to Midstates. She presented a poster at Midstates last year and said that poster presentations “can be a great way to have more informal discussions with students and PIs about your research.”

Sophia Nelson (Mathematics, Biochem ’23) jumped directly into Midstates this year as her first formal oral presentation and said “one of the main things” she learned was “how to explain things to an audience that didn’t do the same research” and that Midstates is “a really good starting place” for presenting your research.


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