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Research Week 2020 brings new cross-system opportunities

Closeup of a microscope.
Photo by Michael Longmire

Washington State University’s Research Week 2020 is coming to a screen near you on Oct. 12–16.

The annual event will be on Zoom this year featuring a VPR distinguished lecture on COVID-19 research and multiple sessions on funding and career advancement as well as talks and panel discussions on WSU’s artificial intelligence research, quantum science and technology research, the Fulbright Scholar experience and the current challenges faced by women in research.

While COVID-19 has forced many conferences online, going virtual has a big silver-lining, said Christine Portfors, a WSU Vancouver biology professor.

“Anyone can participate in Research Week regardless of where they are across the system,” said Portfors, who is also vice chancellor of research and graduate education for WSU’s Tri-Cities and Vancouver campuses. “In the past, one of the challenges for faculty on different campuses was to get to Pullman in the middle of the semester to participate in the panels and other activities. Now that everything is virtual, it actually allows everybody to have equal access.”

Christine Portfors portrait
Christine Portfors

This year, Portfors is participating on the Women in Research panel along with psychology professor Masha Gartstein and biology professor Erica Crespi. They will discuss pathways to success and challenges faced by women in the field in general and the added stress of working during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The pandemic is amplifying inequities in higher education, and one of those is around gender,” Portfors said. “Research shows that the majority of caregiving duties goes to women, and there’s data coming out, particularly in the sciences, indicating that since the stay at home orders, women have been less productive than men.”

Professor and ceramic artist Io Palmer is serving on a panel on the Fulbright Scholar program. She highly recommends that others apply for the program since the experience allows scholars to develop and research an area of study for an extended period of time while also getting to know another culture.

“My experience as a Fulbright Scholar was remarkable,” Palmer said. “I studied how fabric moves through society, and I was able to travel all over India in search of the different types and processes of fabric production. It truly changed my life.”

This is not the first time Palmer has participated in Research Week. Last year, she was a recipient of the $10K+RA grant, which provides faculty with seed funding of $10,000 and a research assistant. Palmer used the funding to launch a mural project called Concept Clay. She said that simply applying for the grant helped her articulate her ideas more clearly, and the subsequent support has helped her envision the mural project in larger ways. The project’s first mural is planned for Winter 2021 at the medical center in Spokane.

Art teacher with art students at work behind her
Io Palmer

Palmer encouraged faculty and other researchers to attend the funding sessions even if they did not apply this year, as it helps to hear how others develop and present their projects. It also helps them connect with the Office of Research which is designed to help faculty and students find funding sources.

“Even for the people who didn’t get a particular grant, the Office of Research will help them find support,” she said. “This department is set up to help us, so we should try and take advantage of that. It is really an incredible opportunity.”

For a full list of this year’s events and activities, visit the Research Week website.

 For more information, contact the Office of Research Advancement and Partnerships at or 509-335-7266.

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