Jason Rhodes, a fourth-year majoring in paper science engineering, points at the molecular structure of cellulose on Sept. 30, 2021 at the Sidewalk Symposium outside of D.H. Hill Library. He partnered with Tom Zarszynski, a second-year majoring in chemical engineering, on this project.

Undergraduate student researchers presented visual representations of their research projects using colorful chalk art at the 2021 Sidewalk Symposium. Researchers drew eye-catching drawings and diagrams outside of the Hillsborough St. entrance of D.H. Hill Library and discussed their projects with students and faculty.

Catherine Showalter, the associate director of the Office of Undergraduate Research, explained how the Sidewalk Symposium was an opportunity for researchers to share their projects in an interesting way.

“The sidewalk symposium is a way for students to creatively represent their research, perhaps in a way that they haven’t really done before, or just in a different type of outlet,” Showalter said. “So for many of them, dissemination, or sharing research, is going to be presenting at a conference, or publishing a paper, or presenting a poster, or something like that. I think it’s one of the few times that you really get to show your research in that artistic way rather than just speaking or writing about it.”

Billy Fryer, a third-year studying statistics and Spanish, was excited to portray his work in a creative way.

“It’s just the coolest way to express your research outside of just a traditional poster,” Fryer said. 

Students sat on the ground as they drew detailed illustrations of animals, plants and diagrams to make their presentations visually interesting. Mellow music played in the background while students and faculty perused the rows of chalk art. 

In front of the event, a chalk sign that said, “ask us about our research,” invited attendees to engage in conversation with the undergraduate researchers, who were eager to discuss their work. 

Kelci Cox, a fourth-year studying biology and art and design, sat beside her vibrant drawing of an eggplant and explained her ongoing research to students. She said that she appreciated the opportunity to present her work from an artistic approach. 

Students who passed by the event were attracted to the lively atmosphere. Brittany Valentine, the program coordinator of the Office of Undergraduate Research, said that the event was structured to draw student interest. 

“It’s more of a fun environment and it brings more people, I think, to show them that undergraduate research is more than … somebody in a lab coat in a lab,” Valentine said.  “Some people are more drawn to a visual interpretation of something than seeing a bunch of words and formulas clustered on a piece of paper.”

The event was sponsored by the Office of Undergraduate Research, NC State University Libraries and the Crafts Center. Showalter said that working with the Crafts Center to combine art and research showcased the possibilities that undergraduate research has to offer.  

“I think being able to see that [student research] can be viewed and represented in a different way than what most students think is a good way to draw in, hopefully, more student researchers and get more undergraduates wanting to participate,” Showalter said. 

For more information about the Office of Undergraduate Research, visit its website.