Image of two Smarti Gras presenters, Kristen Zimmer and Alexia Vassos

Animated Academia

Friday, August 17, 2018 - 8:32am
Carla DeMarco
Over 80 enthusiastic UTM undergrads presented scholarly summer research projects through talks and posters in the largest Smarti Gras to date

The UofT Mississauga community came together to celebrate the excellent work being done by its young research community in the annual Smarti Gras, which showcases undergraduate research that takes place over the summer months.

Now in its third year, Smarti Gras, which is organized by the Office of the Vice-Principal, Research, with support from the Office of the Dean and UTMAGS, kicked off its 2018 program with nine oral presentations from a range of departments including Biology, Chemical & Physical Sciences, English & Drama, Geography, and Psychology.

“I want to thank everyone for coming to Smarti Gras today, and for sharing your work with the UTM community,” said UTM Vice-Principal, Research Professor Kent Moore in his opening remarks to the assembly gathered to listen to oral presentations in Instructional Centre (IB), room 150. “I remember being an undergrad and it really opened my eyes to the wonderful things you can do in research.”

The oral presentations represented a diverse breadth of topics including two undergraduate students from English & Drama (pictured): 4th-year student Kristen Zimmer, left, who explored the writing and ‘methods to the “madness”’ of 17th-century writer Margaret Cavendish (supervised by Professor Liza Blake); and 3rd-year student Alexia Vassos, who argued there are similarities in representations of robots and people with disabilities in theatre and writing (supervised by Professor Lawrence Switzky). The other talks covered a range of fascinating topics, from the study of disordered proteins and Transposable Elements (TEs) in the genome, to the effect of speaker reliability on children learning language, marginal lands in the Credit Valley Watershed, and puberty in the naked mole rat.

"Prior to this year I had never heard about Smarti Gras but I am so glad I applied because it was truly a wonderful experience," said Vassos. 

"Through this event, I was able to reunite and celebrate with some of the most amazing people I met during a Jackman Scholar-in-Residence program I participated in earlier this year," added Zimmer. "It's so important to view academia not only as an intellectual pursuit but also as a way to form deep connections with people and foster lifelong friendships."

Following the talks, there were 69 posters on display in the IB atrium that were presented by 84 undergrads, as well as two posters that showcased work by the UTM Library. The poster presenters enthusiastically spoke about their respective projects that took place, and examined everything from the skeletal remains of a small lizard from nearly 300 million years ago (Varanopidae) by 3rd year Biology student Sigi Maho (supervised by Professor Robert Reisz), to the sediment deposition and flow dynamics in UTM’s on campus stormwater-management pond investigated by 3rd-year students Wyatt Weatherson and Sukhmani Singh in Geography (supervised by Professor Tim Duval), and the pedagogical challenges in Ontario related to diversity and special education referrals that 4th year Historical Studies student Miranda Too studied (supervised by Dr. Joan Simalchik).

To see a list of all the oral and poster presentations, please see the full program.

“I am thrilled to see such engagement by our undergraduate research community at UTM,” said Professor Moore. “I find this to be quite an impressive event that we intend to continue for many years to come, and I am grateful to all the undergrads today for presenting their work.”

Go to Flickr to see more photos of the event.