rWritten by: Nathaniel Tok, Peak Associate


Undergraduate students presented their original research findings to colleagues, graduate students, faculty members, and other members of the SFU community during the second annual poster competition of the SFU Science Undergraduate Research Journal (SURJ). Around 21 groups set up posters describing their research in the James Douglas Safe Study Area for the event.

SFU SURJ is a publication run by undergraduate students, and it is currently in its third volume. It aims to give other undergraduates the chance to undergo peer review with experts and professors and publish their research. SFU SURJ’s online blog also provides opportunities for students to publish more informal opinion pieces.

This year, their poster competition had entries from all over SFU. Students from the biological sciences, molecular biology and biochemistry (MBB), statistics, chemistry, physics, and health sciences departments competed.

Competitors set up their posters in the James Douglas Safe Study Area and were judged by a panel of graduate students and faculty members who walked around looking at the poster layouts. The judges listened to the students’ presentations and asked questions to establish how much the presenter knew about their topic.

Olivia Tsai, a fourth-year MBB student and one of SURJ’s senior editors, hailed this year’s poster competition as a success.

“The location had a lot of traffic,” said Tsai, who was one of the event’s organizers. “We saw a lot of students come [ . . . ] the presenters had a good time showcasing their research.”

Tsai thought the contest helped the students “reflect on their work,” work on their presentation skills, and see the wide variety of undergraduate research going on in SFU.

Participants echoed Tsai’s assessment. Dasha Iskakova, a fourth-year MBB student, noted that “it was really interesting seeing everyone’s else research.” Iskakova found the competition to be a good source of experience in presenting research in a formal setting.

Cassandra Mah and Tess Marusyk, health sciences students, presented on the effects of opening a new greenway in Vancouver. They added that beyond the experience, it was satisfying to show their research to people whom it would affect.

Nicole Whittle, a second-year kinesiology student, found that her research and presentation was in line with her goal of becoming an occupational therapist. Although she found the research process difficult at times, she noted that it was also rewarding. Whittle hopes that her work helps her lab’s next undergraduate researcher plan clinical trials.

Kristen Bystrom and Zhi Yuh Ou Yang, statistics majors who presented on using classification models to study weather data, also enjoyed the process. The two remarked that “we did this research for fun and we wanted to showcase it.”

“It gave us a great opportunity to work with real data [ . . . ] to use the math and statistics we learned in school in an applied sense.” – Kristen Bystrom and Zhi Yuh Ou Yang, SURJ poster competition participants 

“It gave us a great opportunity to work with real data [ . . . ] to use the math and statistics we learned in school in an applied sense,” they noted.

Tsai encouraged students from various disciplines, such as psychology, mathematics, the physical sciences, life sciences, computing science, engineering, and others to publish their work with the SURJ and to participate in future poster competitions.

Tsai hopes that the poster competitions continue, but she acknowledges that it could be hard to recruit judges, as graduate students and faculty members are often busy with their own projects. She also looks forward to doing more to increase SURJ’s outreach to SFU students. Tsai is presently looking to continue recruiting students who are interested in research and in connecting with experts across Canada to become editors for the journal.


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