Smarti Gras 2019: A celebration of summer undergraduate research

Friday, August 16, 2019 - 11:37am
Maeve Doyle

On August 14, the Instructional Centre at the University of Toronto Mississauga filled with undergraduate student research posters, presentations and music for the fourth annual Smarti Gras. Smarti Gras provides students with the opportunity to share the results of the independent research they conducted in the humanities, social sciences and science over the summer. More than 275 people, including the student researchers, attended this year’s event, which also offered a barbeque lunch, ice cream and a DJ. The UTM Office of the Vice-Principal, Research, in collaboration with the Office of the Dean, established Smarti Gras in 2016.

Image of Evonne Levy and Claire Smith

Distilling the knowledge

Third-year art history major Claire Smith gave an oral presentation on her work gathering data from multiple fields of knowledge on Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s bronze sculptures. The goal, she says, is to compile the data in one definitive catalogue.

“We will have concrete evidence that this is part of his collection and how he made it, who made it with him, who assisted and who funded it,” says Smith, who received a University of Toronto Excellence Award in the humanities.

Smith’s work is part of an ongoing study led by Professor Evonne Levy, a specialist in 17th century art in the department of visual studies at U of T Mississauga.

Levy says Smith gained insight into the profession of an art historian. She learned how to translate a sprawling project into a six-minute presentation and benefited from close mentorship.

“But this is an absolutely mutually beneficial process. The students also provide me with original insight into whatever subject I’m working on,” says Levy.

Image of Yuhong He, Zoë Bedford and Monique Dosanjh

Communication and understanding

Third-year geography students and research partners Zöe Bedford and Monique Dosanjh gave an oral presentation and presented a poster.  They used satellite remote sensing to determine changes in lake depths in the Credit Valley watershed. 

“Research experience is important to me because it sets me up if I want to go on to the graduate track. I have an advantage and I know what is expected of me and how to produce what is needed,” says Bedford, an NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Award recipient.

Bedford and Dosanjh conducted their independent research project in Professor Yuhong He’s remote sensing laboratory.

“Engaging undergraduate students in my lab allows me to train them in formulating a research question and in the use of appropriate methodologies to gather and analyse data in order to answer it,” says He, associate professor and chair of the department of geography.

Dosanjh, who holds a summer undergraduate internship from U of T’s Centre for Global Change Science, says that preparing for Smarti Gras taught her how to communicate her research to an audience with a wide variety of backgrounds.

Smarti Gras is more than just an opportunity to recap what the students have done, says He. “An important part of research is not just to tell people what you did, but to make sure that people understand what you did.”