Presentation Categories

SURCA features multiple presentation categories in which students can enter and be evaluated, depending on the topic and focus of their mentored project. Please note that these categories are not “by college” or “by major.” The best category for your project is determined by its topic and the field you are working within.

Important note about choosing a category: Even though we ask our students to choose a presentation category for their project, we still expect them to be prepared to present their work to judges and guests from a variety of backgrounds. This is why we invite members of the public to volunteer as judges. We have also heard that some judges who have a career working in research have enjoyed evaluating projects outside of their area. We welcome this because we think it is important for researchers and scholars to communicate effectively about their work to all audiences.

Student presenters, you should be prepared to present your work to a general audience, not just people specializing in your area of research, scholarship, or creative activity!

List of SURCA Presentation Categories

A reminder on how “research” is defined at SURCA: In each of the following category descriptions, the term “research” is used to convey “mentored research and other scholarly and creative activities that make an original intellectual or creative contribution to their discipline.”

Research Proposal

This category is for students working with a mentor and engaged in developing and writing a research or creative or scholarly work proposal that identifies a knowledge gap via the inclusion of a literature review and an analysis of existing data such as is available in public data bases, published literature, or data from the research lab. The knowledge gap should be addressed by a proposed experimental or future research plan followed by expected outcomes. All students selecting this category must also specify one of the other eight categories.

Arts and Design

This category is for creative activities in arts and design and would embrace a variety of areas including, but not limited to, apparel design, textiles, architecture, art (in all its forms), creative writing, dance, film, music, performance, journalistic products, and multimedia.

Applied Sciences

This category is for research that seeks to solve a practical problem through the use of natural science. Applied science differs from fundamental science, which seeks to describe the most basic objects and forces, having less emphasis on practical applications.

Computer Science, Mathematics, Statistics, and Information Sciences

This category is for projects in pure mathematics or computational studies as well as those areas of research that deal with the collection, classification, manipulation, storage, retrieval, or dissemination of information.

Engineering and Physical Sciences

This category encompasses any research done in areas such as chemistry, engineering, environmental and physical sciences, geology, materials science, physics, or resource sciences.


This category is for research that studies the human condition. Research and scholarship in this category would embrace the various fields of the humanities including, but not limited to, American studies, anthropology, communication studies, cultural studies, education, English, film studies, history, art history, music history, languages, law, literature, philosophy, and religion.

Molecular, Cellular, and Chemical Biology

This category is for research in the biological sciences where the goal is to elucidate interactions within the cell and the molecular and biochemical mechanisms underlying biological processes. Projects in these areas can be from diverse fields of the biological sciences such as evolutionary biology, developmental biology, neuroscience, microbiology, genetics, and molecular plant sciences.

Organismal, Population, Ecological, and Evolutionary Biology

This category is for research that deals with the analysis of physiology, morphology, reproduction, and behavior of organisms; the establishment of adaptations over evolutionary time; organismal interactions in the environment; and population, species, and community ecology. Biological systems studied in this category will range from viruses and bacteria to soil, plants, and animals.

Social Sciences

This category is for research in the field of study concerned with “society.” Research and scholarship in this category would embrace the various branches of the social sciences including, but not limited to, anthropology, communication, criminal justice, economics, education, geography, history, human development, international studies, law, linguistics, management, political science, psychology, sociology, and teaching and learning. Topics in the area of business administration would also likely belong in this category.