NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Although the university is not hosting any on-campus events for the foreseeable future due to concerns surrounding COVID-19, students at Stephen F. Austin State University will still be presenting their research — but this time, in a virtual format.

Each year, SFA hosts two student-centered research conferences: the Undergraduate Research Conference and the Graduate Research Conference. During these events, students present their papers and posters.

One research project from each of SFA’s six colleges and one from a regional college is chosen for the Undergraduate Research Conference as Top Scholar and receives $500. Top Scholars present their work in an oral presentation or performance. This year’s URC winners are Karina Weathers, Nelson Rusche College of Business; Lauren Pate, James I. Perkins College of Education; Charlie Davis, College of Liberal and Applied Arts; Samantha Altamirano, College of Fine Arts; Xander Haynes, College of Sciences and Mathematics; Kasey Jobe, Krista Ward and Nick Schiwitz, Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture; and Morgan Gray, representing Tyler Junior College.

In addition, seven additional outstanding student research projects are selected by each college and designated as finalists. Finalists present a research poster during the conference.

Dr. Michael Tkacik, director of SFA’s School of Honors and professor in the Department of Government, who also serves on the URC’s executive committee, commended this year’s winners on their innovation and creativity.

“I’m impressed with not just the hard work and intellectual mastery the students’ research shows, but I’m also impressed with the creativity the students demonstrated,” Tkacik said. “It is exciting to see students tackle problems in new and dynamic ways. There is something invigorating about discovering new knowledge.”

To view posters submitted for the Undergraduate Research Conference, visit

Thirty-five individuals are presenting their research during the Graduate Research Conference, which may be viewed online at

All graduate students are encouraged to submit their research for conference inclusion. A committee of university faculty members reviews the submissions and decides on those that will move forward to present.

Dr. Sarah Savoy, associate professor of psychology and co-facilitator of the GRC, said she was impressed with how quickly the students were able to transition their work to an online platform.

“This conference has always been about celebrating graduate student research and creative activity and giving students an opportunity to practice presenting in a professional setting,” Savoy said. “This year, students are getting a little added practice by using technology.”

Robin Johnson, a GRC presenter representing the College of Liberal and Applied Arts, was able to transition her crisis communication plan presentation to an online format. While adjusting to a Zoom presentation involved some tweaks, she is excited to share her work with a larger audience.

“One positive about the conference being offered online is that people who would not have been able to travel and see our work now have the opportunity to view it,” Johnson said.

At the end of the semester, judges for the Graduate Research Conference will select  two award winners — best poster and best paper — with each student receiving $300.