UT Libraries hosts Instagram competition to showcase undergraduate research

Larissa Herold

A new competition is encouraging undergraduates to share images of their research in order to practice communicating that research to the public.

The Images of Research Competition is accepting submissions of images and accompanying captions from undergraduates involved in research on campus through March 23. UT Libraries is hosting the competition.

There have been competitions encouraging students to submit an image that conveys the procedure or significance of their research at other schools, including the University of Kansas, but this is the first such competition at UT, according to librarian Michele Ostrow.

“A lot of them are focused on grad students,” Ostrow said. “I think the one in Kansas is also for undergraduates. That’s more of the exception than the rule, it seems like. So we thought, let’s try it here.”

The librarians who are organizing the competition, Ostrow, Elise Nacca, and Colleen Lyons, wanted to create an accessible way for students to showcase the work that they do.

“It’s to show the human side,” Nacca said. “The struggles. The joy. The passion people have for research. Even if it is just for one class, it can really motivate you. We want to acknowledge how much of your identity and yourself goes into that.”

In order to decrease barriers that may otherwise discourage undergraduates from applying, Instagram is the mode of submission. Each student can post up to three images by using the hashtag  #utlibresearch18competition and tagging @utlibraries. The submissions will be archived in Texas ScholarWorks.

“You’re going to be in our digital repository,” Ostrow said. “That’s permanent long-term digital preservation with a stable URL that you can put on your portfolio or your Linkedin. But also, the purpose of Texas Scholarworks is to preserve for perpetuity the scholarly output of the university. Being in there gives students the opportunity to be part of that.”

The organizers said they hope that students will engage with the creative side of research for more than just resume purposes.

“I think that when you’re being creative in the research process, it means you’re open to new ideas,” Nacca said. “You’re open to any cross-pollination with other disciplines. You’re thinking in a flexible way. And I think those are all really good attributes for anyone that’s going to be a great researcher.”

The Images of Research competition is designed to get undergraduates to engage in the concept of “thinking in public.”

“It’s about connecting the community to the academy,” Ostrow said. “If you’re going to sit there and do your dissertation on this thing that might seem really esoteric or really complex, how can you then explain it to a lay audience outside of the university in a way that other people understand and see the benefits and the value of it? This is sort of like a mini ‘thinking in public’ thing that undergraduates can do, because Instagram is public, and they’re trying to explain what they’re doing — why this image represents the research. It’s a way for them to get practice talking about their contributions at the University.”

The images can be submitted on Instagram using the hashtag  #utlibresearch18competition and tagging @utlibraries up to March 23. Each undergraduate can submit up to three images with 250-word captions, and they will then be judged by faculty that work with undergraduate researchers in interdisciplinary fields. There are monetary prizes for first and second-place winners.