While campus was mostly quiet during the month of winter break, a group of undergraduate and graduate students, as well as faculty stayed in the Orono area to take part in the fifth annual University of Maine’s Virtual Environment and Multimodal Interaction Laboratory (VEMI) Rapid Research Week. The event took place in Carnegie Hall on the UMaine Orono campus.
Professor and Director of the VEMI Lab Richard Corey co-coordinated the VEMI Rapid Research Week. Corey worked alongside Nicholas Giudice, the director emeritus of the VEMI lab, as the original creators of Rapid Research Week. The two initiated the week “as a way to teach our students the fundamentals of research in an engaging and fun way,” Corey stated.
Corey noted the diversity of disciplines represented in Rapid Research Week, emphasizing that the ability to conduct and share diverse research topics benefits all involved undergraduate and graduate students, as well as faculty. He also emphasized that the students had a large impact on making decisions regarding the layout and presentation of the week. Since the point of the event was to put students first, Corey noted, their input was encouraged throughout the process of planning and implementing the activities throughout the week.
“22 Students and 10 faculty and staff members came together for a one-week immersive research education experience. The students came from dozens of different departments,” Corey stated. “The Rapid Research Week Instructor Team consisted of Giudice, whose work focuses on spatial informatics, Caitlin Howell, whose work focuses on biomedical engineering, Fayeza Ahmed, whose work focuses on psychology, Kaitlyn Haase of the VEMI Lab, Raymond Perry of the VEMI Lab and myself.”
Because the week was set up to encourage students and faculty to share their research, the focus was on innovation rather than in maintaining a traditional classroom structure. Rapid Research Week allowed community members to adopt a more collaborative approach to innovation and apply valuable knowledge or skills.
Theo Erikson, a first-year mechanical engineering student who works as an undergraduate developer at the VEMI Lab, explained that Rapid Research Week makes UMaine unique by offering an opportunity for students who are developing their research.
“As far as I know, no other university has an event quite like Rapid Research Week. It might be my intense lack of objectivity, but I don’t think anywhere else could,” Erikson said.
Erickson elaborated on the intensity of the opportunity offered at the events of Rapid Research Week.
“Throughout the week the teams took shallow dives into various aspects of the research process,” Erikson said. “By the end of the week, each team had produced a literature review, a white paper and a presentation. An entire day of Rapid Research Week was devoted to running participants an experiment designed during the week. The data from that experiment was processed and used in both the white paper and the presentation.”
Erikson hopes to be able to participate in any future events hosted by the VEMI Lab that are similar to the Rapid Research Week.
UMaine hopes to continue to offer this opportunity for students in the future to gain research knowledge, interact with peers in a meaningful way and promote constructive learning opportunities. For those interested in the VEMI Lab, more information can be found at https://umaine.edu/vemi/about-us/ or at 207-581-2151.