Early Thursday, 264 scholars will take their positions in front of academic posters—rows upon rows of them stretching from the entry of the vast Compton Union Building senior ballroom to the opposite wall. Smartly dressed, standing tall, each scholar will try to anticipate the volley of questions about to head their way.

At 9:00 a.m. sharp the doors will open. Over the next three hours, hundreds of members of the University community will stream into the ballroom. Strolling slowly past each scholar and poster, they will occasionally pause and question as they window-shop for knowledge.

That’s when the magic happens.

The poster-wielding scholars are participants in Academic Showcase and the Graduate and Professional Student Association (GPSA) Research Exposition. Both forums were created to promote the exchange of research, scholarship, and creative activity across the WSU community.

The moment visitors enter the ballroom, the atmosphere turns electric. Conversations spark ideas. Knowledge surges. Connections are forged.

For fans of knowledge and creativity, these events are a must-see double-header.

“Every year I learn something new,” said Mary Sánchez-Lanier, assistant vice provost and chair of the Academic Showcase Committee.

Diversity of scholars and topics

This year promises a wildly diverse lineup of brain candy. One scholar is exploring use of hyperbaric oxygen to reduce signs of opioid withdrawal. Another has created a work of art that represents how the people of Washington state voted in the 2016 presidential election. A third examines how cultural characteristics influence decisions to get flu vaccinations.

Faculty, staff, and post-doctoral and graduate students from nearly all academic departments and campuses present their work at the same time under one roof. The result: Attendees get a birds-eye view of research and creative activity across the University.

Rewards for graduate and professional students

82 of the posters belong to graduate and professional students vying for $9,600 in scholarships in GPSA Research Exposition. They will present their original research and creative work to judges in hopes of winning an award.

As a side benefit, the student participantshone their presentation skills. They receive expert feedback from faculty, post-doctoral researchers, staff, and alumni who have become leaders in industry.

“Students can leverage this presentation as starting point for building long-term industry connections,” said Hongda Ren, graduate student and GPSA senator.

Quest to connect

For many attendees at both events, connections are a primary goal. At a glance, visitors can tell a presenter’s area of expertise. That makes it easy for faculty to find like-minded research partners or the right students to work in their labs or studios.

Undergraduate students seeking research and creative opportunities can scout for topics of interest and strike up conversations with professors.

Even for those without an agenda, the events are eye-opening to explore.They not only demonstrate individual accomplishments, but underscore our collective achievements as an institution.

Shira Broschat, professor and diversity coordinator in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, summed it up best: “When you go to Academic Showcase, you feel pride in what everyone is doing at WSU to make the world a better place.”

Academic Showcase and GPSA Research Exposition run from 9:00 a.m. to noon on Thursday, March 28 in the Compton Union Building Senior Ballroom. Admission is free.

The events are part of Showcase, Washington State University’s annual celebration of academic excellence. Explore the full schedule of Showcase events.