More than Chalk on the Sidewalk: OUR Sidewalk Symposium

By: Tahirah Siddiqui
Photos provided by: Sara Halstead and the Office of Undergraduate Research

The Office of Undergraduate Research hosted a Sidewalk Symposium, in which they challenged undergraduate students participating in research, scholarly, and creative projects to create colorful, visual representations of their research on the sidewalks around the entrance of D.H. Hill Library— using nothing but chalk.

Students could be at any point in the research process, as the symposium was intending to highlight the research process and the work students put into their research so far. 

Sara Halstead, a senior majoring in biological science, and Nick Moore, a senior majoring in environmental science, both participated in the symposium on September 12th, and were excited to discuss their experiences and share their research with the campus. 

Halstead, whose research focuses on how social factors affect stress in female-dominant species, like ring-tailed lemurs, was excited to participate in the symposium. She explained seeing other’s work gave her insight into just how diverse research can be. “After seeing some of the other researchers at the sidewalk symposium, I have realized with my research that I have barely scratched the surface of the many projects currently being studied,” she said, “I really enjoyed being able to see how each individual project was described in an art form.” For Halstead, the symposium offered her an opportunity to practice presenting her research in a unique and approachable manner. “The sidewalk symposium was a wonderful opportunity to practice giving my research to the general public. To peers and experts, my research is full of technical terms and assumptions, but when people not in the biological field ask about my research I have to explain it in a way that makes sense to them.” 

Moore, whose research focuses on identifying parasitic infestation patterns on Christmas trees using a combination of insecticides and seed cleaning methods to reduce the number of infested seeds in a local North Carolina Fraser fit orchard, also found the Sidewalk Symposium to be helpful in practicing communicating his research in a unique way. Moore explains he chose to participate in the Sidewalk Symposium because he felt “ it would be a perfect introductory event for practicing how to discuss research with strangers.” He also appreciated the opportunity to blend his research and his artistic ability to be able to present his work in an engaging and unique way. Moore notes he found it to be “an excellent event to attract a variety of students of all backgrounds,” and he enjoyed “being able to work in a sunny and welcoming setting with a simple supply of chalk.” Furthermore, he found the symposium to be a great way to engage with others who may be interested in learning more about his research or even participating in other research events on campus. 

It is clear, students who attended and participated in the Sidewalk Symposium took a lot away from the event. From learning about interesting projects on campus to finding new ways to talk about their work. For Moore, he hopes his work may inspire other students to participate in research events throughout campus, “it may be intimidating to try something new and somewhat professional, but the experiences are definitely worthwhile.” While Halstead hopes her work encourages others to seek out unique opportunities like the Sidewalk Symposium in the future.  She notes, “NC State is full of diverse researchers and studies. I hope students find our pictures entertaining and are convinced to sign up for their own research next year.”