Anna Flood is an incoming graduate student in the Department of English. This summer she participated in the Summer Predoctoral Institute (SPI) and conducted independent research with Dr. Candice Jenkins as her mentor. Her summer work revolved around speculative fictions of slavery, particularly the novel "Kindred "by Octavia Butler. Anna and 38 other SPI fellows, as well as undergraduates from a variety of programs, had the opportunity to present at the Illinois Summer Research Symposium (ISRS). In this post, see a “Day in the Life” during the second day of ISRS, when the roundtables and oral presentations take place.
8 a.m.: Waking up bright and early. I had to support some of my friends who had presentations at 9:30, so I got ready and went downstairs for breakfast then headed to the iHotel for a research packed day!
9:30 - 10:30 a.m.: This was an easy hour. All of the people that I wanted to see were on the same panel in the quad room. There were four presenters who spoke on a multitude of topics. The title of the panel was “Critical Analysis in Media and Literature”. One project was on speculative fiction, another was discussing photography as a therapeutic method, another was on the depiction of North Koreans in South Korean films (fascinating!) and the final project was discussing fanbases and their relationship to the movies and television shows that they engage with. The panel was enlightening and I learned so much. It changed some false perceptions I had previously, which can be one of the beautiful aspects of symposiums—you learn and engage with new ideas.
10:45 - 11:45 a.m.: Here is where the day began to get a bit tricky. The hard part about conferences is that there are a plethora of presentations happening all at once and often times there are two presentations that a person wants to see, but the panels are at the same time. I was presented with that challenge during this hour. I had two very close friends going during the same hour, but I was fortunate that one friend went first and the other was third. So, it was a matter of swift movements and quiet exit and entry into the room. It also helped that the convention center is not terribly large which makes moving from room to room fairly easy. This was definitely a mission that I saw most people on because it is important to support your friends and/or see the presentations that you are interested in. The two panels that I attended during this session were “Structural and Acoustical Mechanics and Materials” and “Issues of Class in Occupations, Transportation, and Housing”. Another beauty of symposiums is the variety of interesting and relevant topics that are talked about.
12:00 - 12:50 p.m.: Ah, lunchtime. A meal and it’s free. Since it was the Faculty Appreciation Luncheon, many faculty from various departments attended the conference itself and the luncheon. While my mentor was unable to attend, it was enlightening to be around my peers and some of their mentors. And the food was fantastic to me because it featured my favorite pasta - tortellini. I definitely let out a shriek of excitement when I saw what it was. We also were briefly addressed by Dr. Eboni Zamani-Gallaher, the Associate Dean of the Graduate College. She offered us many words of wisdom and enlightenment.
1 - 2 p.m.: Roundtable presentations. For one hour at sixteen different tables, three or four presenters sat and discussed their research. here was anywhere from three to six “audience” members besides the presenters and the moderators also at the table who were all able to participate in the discussion. I did a roundtable presentation and along with me were two other presenters, one presenting on speculative fiction and the other presenting on what it means to belong in relation to racial identity. We had a group of people at our table for thirty minutes and at that mark, the audience members were given the chance to switch tables. So, for the second half, we engaged in a new discussion with different people.
2:15 - 3:15 p.m.: Immediately after the roundtable presentations, the oral presentations begin again! During each oral presentation time slot, there are eight panels all happening at once with three or four presenters on each panel. During this session, I attended the “Navigating Educational Structures Panel”. At the same time, there were panels titled “Mapping the Brain through Neurons”, “Stimulations of Polymers” and “Navigating Structures of State Power and Inequality”. It was hard to pick one to go to!
3:15 - 3:40 p.m.: Coffee and cookie break! Yes!
3:45 - 4:45 p.m.: After a long day of waiting and watching others, it was my turn to present. I was on a panel titled “Race and Identity” with two other people. All of our presentations were unique from one another yet the three projects were all crucial and relevant work. ISRS is a supportive and safe environment to present research, so I was pleased to receive feedback and encouragement from my peers and to give it to others as well.
5 - 6 p.m.: The last oral presentation session finally arrives. Everyone is tired, but the presenters are pushing through and so is everyone who is there to support them. It has been a long day, but it is not over yet! During this session, some of the panels were “Machine Learning for Innovation in Science”, “Toxins and Genetic Mutations”, and “Impacts of Violence among Marginalized Groups”. I sat in on a panel titled “Survival and Resistance in the Academy”, where the presenters addressed how identity affects the experiences of underrepresented students and how they create a space of success for themselves.
6:15 p.m.: Dinnertime has arrived. Everyone is relieved that their presentations are over, they are feeling proud! Wojtek Chodzko-Zajko, Dean of the Graduate College, offers more words of encouragement and the 2019 SPI Fellows prove to be the loudest and most excited group at ISRS.
7 p.m.: We were presented with a series of awards for our presentations. Honorable Mention and Best Poster Presentations, Roundtable Presentations and Oral Presentations. While everyone at the symposium did well, it is important to recognize those who stood out the most. There were a good number of SPI fellows who received an award as well—Alex Baldeon, Destiny Williams, Joel Roberts, Rayven Morrow, and Victor Gonzalez! This was also the best time to take a group photo, Illinois has a lot of bright incoming graduate students who are ready to work!
Anna is a Master's student in the English department. Her research interests revolve around the function of the Gothic in 19th century slave narratives and 21st century films and graphic novels. She recommends singing loudly in the car for stress relief.