The Perks of Going to PURC

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As the 18th annual Psychology Undergraduate Research Conference (PURC) approaches, an interview with Dr. Michael Souza, Senior Instructor and Associate Head of Undergraduate Affairs in the Department of Psychology at UBC, gives a more detailed account of the event. By sharing his insight and description of the benefits of participating in or attending the conference, Dr. Souza highlights the main purpose and goals of the event.

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Dr. Michael Souza

Perhaps the first question to address would be what is PURC? “It’s really an opportunity to celebrate all the research that’s done in our department with undergrads” says Dr. Souza. A conference of undergraduate researchers all presenting their work through posters and talks, PURC provides students with a space to share their research. “It is a program requirement for honors students. But importantly, it’s also open to any student who has done research in psychology,” says Dr. Souza. “There are a huge number of directed studies, honors students, and volunteer research assistants, so it’s a really nice opportunity to see the breadth of what we do as a department.”

However, it is not only undergraduate students experienced in research that get to join in on the action. “Faculty attend, and students who haven’t necessarily done research are more than welcome. We also really like it when students that want to learn more about research attend; whether it be third and fourth years who have heard about it later, or first and second years who are just curious and want to check it out. That’s something we really try to encourage. To get a sense of what you could do.” The conference inspires not only current researchers, but those wishing to be involved. Such curiosity and motivation fuels research, which is, according to Souza, “What makes our University great.”

PURC has been around for quite some time with this coming April marking its 18th year. Dr. Souza shares how the tradition has kept itself alive. “In addition to being a program requirement, it’s a professional development opportunity.” In the field of psychology, many associations, such as the Canadian Psychology Association, use conferences to present new research and information. “This is a way to simulate what happens at conferences,” says Souza. “We view it as a stepping stone for students to gain the preparation and the confidence to vault to that next level.”

With the opportunity to share research also comes the chance to be recognized for excellence in conducting and presenting that research. “The Department of Psychology generously sponsors two classes of awards. There are three awards for best posters, and two awards for the best oral presentation. We have a team of dedicated graduate students – who will remain anonymous – who lead the adjudication of the awards.” The winners receive recognition of their achievement as well as a money award. “It’s a nice way to give a vote of confidence to the quality of those presentations.”

Such a large conference would require much organization and planning. Impressively, PURC is run primarily by the Psychology Students Association. “There are other research [events] like this at other schools… but what’s probably most unique about PURC is that the logistics, planning talks, the meals, it’s all done by the students.” The act of organizing a major event such as PURC speaks volumes about the leadership and capabilities of the psychology students here at UBC.

For information on the event, go to: http://psa.psych.ubc.ca/purc/

-Samantha Yang