Save the Date URMA Annual Conference 2024 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. May 14-17, 2024 Presented by URMA and UNC Research Office of Research Communications

Hotel block available at
Hampton Inn & Suites Chapel Hill-Carrboro/Downtown

URMA Conference 2024

Join us for URMA 2024 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill! You’ll connect with colleagues from universities and institutions who communicate about research through online and print magazines, media relations, social media, videos, podcasts and more. Our conference features practitioners in realms such as journalism, design, photography, multimedia and other areas relevant to telling the stories of research. If you communicate about your institution’s research, URMA’s annual conference is for you.

Not a member? Find out how to join URMA.

UNC at Chapel Hill

2024 URMA Host Institution

This year’s conference is being hosted by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from May 14–17, 2024. This conference will cover a broad range of topics and disciplines of interest and relevance to research communicators.

Travel / Accommodations

We have secured a room block at the Hampton Inn and Suites Chapel Hill-Carrboro/Downtown, located a short walk away from all conference locations.

Registration

Enjoy 3- or 4-day options to learn from experts at sessions covering multiple topics. A 1-day option is also available for local attendees.

Nick Houtman Travel Grant

URMA is pleased to announce the Nick Houtman Travel Grant Application for the annual URMA Conference. Deadline is March 15.

SOLD OUT

2024 Conference Agenda

*Sessions may change slightly in the next few months.

Tuesday, May 14th Pre-conference Agenda

 

12:15 PM
Board shuttle from Hampton Inn & Suites Chapel Hill-Carrboro/Downtown


12:30 PM
Morehead Planetarium & Science Center

  • Planetarium Show & Exhibit Tour
  • Panel with Will Freund, community engagement specialist; Kelly Marks, exhibits manager; and Whit McMillan, science programs manager

3 PM
N.C. Botanical Garden

  • Tour of the gardens
  • Research conversation with conservation ecologist Michael Kunz

5:30 PM
Dinner at Luna Rotisserie & Taproom

A tribute to two distinct culinary traditions, the menu at Luna captures the unique and varied cuisines of South America, yet respects its roots in the American South.


7 – 10 PM
Hospitality Suite

Register early and enjoy drinks and snacks with your fellow URMAns.

MAY 14th CONFERENCE SPEAKERS

Whit McMillan

Whit McMillan

Whit McMillan is the manager of school and interpretive programs for Morehead Planetarium and Science Center. He has worked as a science educator for 25 years.
Will Freund

Will Freund

Will Freund is the community education specialist at Morehead Planetarium and Science Center. A longtime science educator, Will loves bringing science to life through the art of storytelling and leads some of the NC Science Festival’s most popular public programs.
Kelly Marks

Kelly Marks

Kelly Marks is the exhibits manager at Morehead Planetarium and Science Center. She’s been a designer, maker, and museum enthusiast for more than 20 years and enjoys creating hands-on experiences that connect people with the whys behind the whats.

Wednesday, May 15th Agenda

Pleasants Family Assembly Room @ Wilson Library

All events take place here unless otherwise noted.
 

8:30 AM
Registration & Breakfast


9 AM
Conference Kickoff

Don Hobart, Associate Vice Chancellor for Research


9:15 – 10:15 AM
KEYNOTE: The Ecology of Science Communication

Speaker: Michelle Jewell, a zoologist and shark researcher, host for Discovery’s “Shark Week,” and the communications and engagement manager at NC State’s Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center


10:30 – 11:20 AM
SESSION 1: Hosting a University Research Week

Presenter: Layla Dowdy, Director of Research Communications at UNC-Chapel Hill


11:30 AM – 12:30 PM
SESSION 2: Nuts & Bolts Sessions

Pandora’s (in)Box: A Research Newsletters Discussion
Presenter: Kelley Christensen, University of Oregon
Your research newsletter doesn’t need to feel like a monster with a bottomless maw that goes out into the void never to be heard from again. In this nuts & bolts discussion, we’ll chat through questions of purpose and audience, content development (and getting help so you don’t have to do it all by yourself!), design and formatting, sustainability, being intentional about diversity, and how to evaluate for measurable impact. Because remember, at the bottom of Pandora’s box was hope.

Happy Accidents: Finding Creativity in Mistakes
Presenter:  Alyssa LaFaro & Corina Prassos, UNC-Chapel Hill
Ever misspelled “Noble” Prize, or paired a quote with a photo of a person who didn’t say it? You’re not alone. We’ve all made mistakes in our work — but they’re not failures. Oftentimes, they actually fuel creativity. In this discussion, let’s unpack how we channeled our inner Bob Ross to turn our mishaps into highlights.

Focused Impact: Creating a Dynamic Social Media Presence
Presenter:  Emma Candelier, University of Virginia
Learn strategic tactics to engage audiences, amplify research findings, and foster community. Explore content curation, platform optimization, and audience targeting techniques. Navigate the digital landscape effectively and drive meaningful impact across social media channels.


12:30 PM: LUNCH


1 – 2 PM
SESSION 3: Ask Matt

A Conversation with Matt Shipman, the research communications lead @ NC State and author of the “Handbook for Science Public Information Officers”
Moderator: Michelle Jewell, communications and engagement manager at NC State’s Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center


2:15 – 3:15 PM
SESSION 4: Overcoming and Working Through Research-Related Crises

A conversation on how research administration, central communications, and the general counsel’s office at UNC-Chapel Hill work together to address crises as they arise. Topics include leadership transitions, animal study issues, operational disruptions, and public inquiries.
Panelists: Don Hobart, associate vice chancellor for research within UNC Research; Mike McFarland, director of university relations within University Communications; Gavin Young, senior director of special projects and public records within University Communications; and David Lambeth, director of strategic research and compliance within the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research
Moderator: Cat Long, research communications manager for University Communications


3:15 – 3:45 PM
SESSION 5: Cookies & Speed Networking


4 – 5 PM
TOUR: Fluids Lab

A 4,500-square-foot experimental laboratory featuring a wave tank, saltwater facility, and wind tunnel for research on various phenomena observed in marine science and biology


6 – 8 PM
RECEPTION: Carolina Basketball Museum

The Carolina Basketball Museum, located on the ground floor of the Ernie Williamson Athletic Center, celebrates the rich history of the University of North Carolina men’s basketball program.

MAY 15th CONFERENCE SPEAKERS

Michelle Jewell

Michelle Jewell

Michelle Jewell is a science communicator, zoologist, and television host for Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week.” She is currently the communications and engagement manager for the Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center and president of the Science Communicators of North Carolina — the second-largest professional society for science communicators in the USA.
Layla Dowdy

Layla Dowdy

Layla Dowdy develops communication strategies that promote the impact of UNC-Chapel Hill’s $1 billion research enterprise to external and internal audiences. She leads the Office of Research Communications in their charge to increase awareness of Carolina’s research accomplishments through a variety of media, including the university’s research magazine, Endeavors. She also oversees the annual pan-campus University Research Week celebration.
Matt Shipman

Matt Shipman

Matt Shipman is the assistant director for research communications in North Carolina State University’s news services office. He spent 10 years as an environmental policy reporter, was a regular contributor to Health News Review, and is the author of the “Handbook for Science Public Information Officers.”
Don Hobart

Don Hobart

Don Hobart has served as an associate vice chancellor for research within UNC Research since 2013. He manages public and external affairs, oversees the UNC Office of Research Communications, and develops and supports research partnerships with academic, agency and institutional partners; businesses and economic development organizations; and global collaborators.
Mike McFarland

Mike McFarland

Mike McFarland is the director of University Relations within University Communications. He helps proactively address the broad array of issues that can affect UNC-Chapel Hill’s reputation. Over a 38-plus-year tenure, Mike has held multiple jobs in central communications, including stints as media relations director, and is proud to have helped tell Carolina’s story about exciting achievements and challenging controversies.
Gavin Young

Gavin Young

Gavin Young joined UNC-Chapel Hill in February 2016. Since assuming responsibility for all university public records requests, his office has responded to over 4,200 individual requests including large requests for information on Carolina’s COVID-19 research.
David Lambeth

David Lambeth

David Lambeth serves as the director of strategic research and compliance within UNC’s Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research. He previously spent seven years as an attorney in the UNC Office of University Counsel and began his legal career at a small law firm.
Cat Long

Cat Long

Cat Long does media relations for science and health research at UNC-Chapel Hill. In her role, she works closely with researchers and administrators to provide media responses to crises and issues. She also amplifies new research discoveries and shares researchers’ expertise on current events through earned media placements.
Kelley Christensen

Kelley Christensen

Kelley Christensen is the director of research communications at the University of Oregon. She also freelances for the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
Emma Candelier

Emma Candelier

Emma Candelier is director of communications at the University of Virginia’s School of Data Science. She is skilled in brand-building, enrollment marketing, fostering connections across diverse channels and audiences, strategic storytelling, web and social engagement, and organizational leadership.
Alyssa LaFaro

Alyssa LaFaro

Alyssa LaFaro is the editor and lead writer for Endeavors, UNC-Chapel Hill’s research magazine. She oversees all content for the digital and print editions, which includes writing articles, taking photos, producing short documentary-style videos, and managing the internship program.
Corina Prassos

Corina Prassos

Corina Prassos serves as the graphic designer for the UNC Office of Research Communications. A professional creative since 2014, her design style is characterized by clean lines and the iconic Carolina Blue, while also incorporating playful handcrafted elements and current design trends whenever possible.

Thursday, May 16th Agenda

Pleasants Family Assembly Room @ Wilson Library

All events take place here unless otherwise noted.
 

8:30 – 9 AM: BREAKFAST


8:30 – 9 AM
Professional portraits by Megan Mendenhall

Megan Mendenhall, Photographer in the UNC Office of Research Communications


9 – 10 AM
SESSION 1: Cross-Campus Collaborations to Improve Content Dissemination

A conversation about best practices for working with communicators in other schools and institutes to create multi-platform content packages.
Panelists: Alyssa LaFaro, research communications manager within the UNC Office of Research Communications; Kim Spurr, associate director of communications for the UNC College of Arts and Sciences; and Emily Williams, director of communications at the UNC Institute for the Environment
Moderator: Corina Prassos, graphic designer within the UNC Office of Research Communications


10:15 – 11 AM
SESSION 2: Building a School and Comms Function at the Same Time

Presenter: Kristen Young, director of communications at the UNC School of Data Science and Society


11:15 AM – 12:15 PM
SESSION 3: FIREHOSE SESSION

  • Step Up Your Video Game with AI
    By Michael Terrazas, University of Georgia
  • Who Do You Think You Are? Leveraging Your Research Identity.
    By Amanda Dobbs, Georgia State University
  • When a Mere Press Release Just Won’t Do
    By Mimi McHale, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
  • Off the Wall: A Research “Wall of Fame” Project
    By Rachel Coker, Binghamton University
  • What AI Can (and Can’t) Do for You
    By Craig Korn, Veggie Graphics
  • A Self-Paced Communications Training for Your Researchers: You Can Make It Happen.
    By Karen Roberts and Beth Miller, University of Delaware
  • Identifying Your Signature Research Stories
    By Brett Beasley, University of Notre Dame
  • Digital Magazines: What Are the Best Options Today?
    By Joe Kays, University of Florida

12:15 – 12:45 PM: LUNCH


12:45 – 1:30 PM
SESSION 4: Finding and Nurturing New Talents

Presenter: Karl Leif Bates, Executive Director of Research Communications at Duke University


1:45 – 2:45 PM
SESSION 5: Research Communication Strategies for Diverse Audiences

Presenter: Essie Torres, director of strategy for research diversity workforce and community partnerships, and Allison Lazard, associate professor in the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media


2:45 PM: Distinguished Service Award / Break


3 – 4 PM
SESSION 6: Making an Impact with Data Visualization

Presenter: Lorin Bruckner, data visualization services librarian for University Libraries


4:15 – 5:15 PM
OPTIONAL: URMA Book Club Session

Optional Book Club
Location: Epilogue Books & Chocolate Brews, 109 E Franklin St.
• A discussion of “In the Waves” with author and engineer Rachel Lance. “In the Waves” explores what happened to the HL Hunley, a Civil War submarine that successfully destroyed a union ship — but disappeared in the process. Lance’s expertise in blast and ballistic events helped uncover the mystery of this ship, discovered off the coast of South Carolina in the early 2000s with the bodies of its crew members almost completely preserved.


6 – 8 PM
RECEPTION: URMA Film Festival & Reception at the Ackland Art Museum

Join us for an evening of culture, small bites, and short films! The 6th Annual URMA Festival features videos and documentaries from our member institutions that highlight research excellence, discovery, and history. For more than 60 years, the Ackland Art Museum has provided access to world-class exhibitions, rich community programming, and innovative educational opportunities.


MAY 16th CONFERENCE SPEAKERS

Corina Prassos

Corina Prassos

Corina Prassos serves as the graphic designer for the UNC Office of Research Communications. A professional creative since 2014, her design style is characterized by clean lines and the iconic Carolina Blue, while also incorporating playful handcrafted elements and current design trends whenever possible.
Alyssa LaFaro

Alyssa LaFaro

Alyssa LaFaro is the editor and lead writer for Endeavors, UNC-Chapel Hill’s research magazine. She oversees all content for the digital and print editions, which includes writing articles, taking photos, producing short documentary-style videos, and managing the internship program.
Kim Spurr

Kim Spurr

Kim Spurr has created stories about Carolina’s captivating people and programs for over 25 years. She oversees content for UNC-Chapel Hill’s largest academic unit, the College of Arts and Sciences — managing the website and serving as founding editor of Carolina Arts & Sciences, the print and online alumni magazine. She produced her 38th issue this spring.
Emily Williams

Emily Williams

Emily Williams is the communications director for the UNC Institute for the Environment. For the last nine years, she has been a cross-campus collaborator for environmental research, education, and community engagement due to the mission of the institute and its work across UNC-Chapel Hill and beyond.
Kristen Young

Kristen Young

Kristen Young has been at UNC-Chapel Hill since 2017, including serving as a communications manager for the School of Government and director of community relations for University Communications. She is currently the communications director at the UNC School of Data Science and Society.
Karl Leif Bates

Karl Leif Bates

Karl Leif Bates is a science journalist and executive director of research communications at Duke University. He has written about science and medicine for 30 years, has led science communication training for hundreds of STEM faculty and trainees, and coaches biotech startups on their pitches to investors. His writing and editing have won national recognition, and he is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Essie Torres

Essie Torres

Essie Torres is director of strategy for research diversity workforce and community partnerships within UNC Research. She maintains the division’s commitment to a diverse and welcoming research community and its strategy for expanding community partnerships, diversifying human subjects research programs, and recruiting and investing in faculty, trainees, students, and research staff to reflect a culturally diverse intellectual community.
Lorin Bruckner

Lorin Bruckner

Lorin Bruckner has worked as a data visualization librarian at UNC-Chapel Hill since 2016. While assisting researchers at University Libraries, she relies on her knowledge and experience in data analysis as well as her 10-year background in web design and creative direction.
Rachel Lance

Rachel Lance

Rachel Lance is a biomedical engineer and blast-injury specialist who works as a scientific researcher on military diving projects at Duke University. Before returning to graduate school to earn her PhD, Rachel spent several years as an engineer for the United States Navy, working to build specialized underwater equipment for use by navy divers, SEALs, and Marine Force Recon personnel.
Allison Lazard

Allison Lazard

Allison Lazard is an associate professor in the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media. She investigates how to best design messages to deliver critical health information that people need and want to improve health outcomes.

Friday, May 17th Agenda

Pleasants Family Assembly Room @ Wilson Library

All events take place here unless otherwise noted.

8:30 – 9 AM: BREAKFAST


9 AM: GROUP PHOTO


9:15 – 10:15 AM
SESSION 1: AI in the Workplace & How to Use It in Your Job

Panelists: Mohammad Jarrahi, UNC information and library science professor and AI expert; Daniel Anderson, UNC English professor and director of UNC’s AI Literacy Initiative; and Sarah Vassello, program manager for the UNC Center for Innovation & Sustainability in Local Media
Moderator: Kristen Young, director of communications at the UNC School of Data Science and Society


10:30 – 11:30 AM
SESSION 2: Emerging Trends in Research

Presenters: Frank Leibfarth, UNC chemistry professor and PFAS expert; Alexander Tropsha, UNC pharmacy professor and drug discovery expert; and Kurt Gray, UNC psychology & neuroscience professor and morality expert


11:30 AM
URMA Business Meeting & Boxed Lunches

Meet with the board to get an update and provide feedback about the organization.


12:30 PM
CONFERENCE ADJOURNS

MAY 17th CONFERENCE SPEAKERS

Kristen Young

Kristen Young

Kristen Young has been at UNC-Chapel Hill since 2017, including serving as a communications manager for the School of Government and director of community relations for University Communications. She is currently the communications director at the UNC School of Data Science and Society.
Mohammad Hossein Jarrahi

Mohammad Hossein Jarrahi

Mohammad Hossein Jarrahi is an associate professor of information and library science at UNC-Chapel Hill. He researches the impact of emerging digital technologies on the future of work and organizations. Since 2017, he’s studied how the integration of AI is transforming knowledge work. He introduced the concept of “human-AI symbiosis,” which describes the collaborative interaction between humans and AI systems in organizational decision-making.
Dan Anderson

Dan Anderson

Daniel Anderson is a professor in of English and comparative literature at UNC-Chapel Hill and the director of the University Writing Program and the Digital Innovation Lab, where he leads campus digital humanities initiatives. He studies wellness rhetoric, media composing, digital humanities, teaching with technology, and alternative approaches to scholarship.
Frank Leibfarth

Frank Leibfarth

Frank Leibfarth is an associate professor of chemistry at UNC-Chapel Hill. His studies leverage fundamental chemical research to provide potentially useful solutions to challenges in sustainability and human health. His work has been recognized by the Beckman Young Investigator award, the Popular Science Brilliant Ten recognition, and the Sloan Research Fellowship, among others.
Sarah Vassello

Sarah Vassello

Sarah Vassello is the program manager for the UNC Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media. She previously worked in local news at the Institute for Nonprofit News, Gannett, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and The Daily Tar Heel, UNC’s independent student newspaper.
Alex Tropsha

Alex Tropsha

Alex Tropsha is a professor in the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. He works in the field of cheminformatics, which combines chemistry and computer science to aid in the discovery of new drugs. He recently received the university’s first ARPA-H grant to develop an AI-driven platform to revolutionize the future of drug development and repurposing.
Kurt Gray

Kurt Gray

Kurt Gray is a psychology and neuroscience professor. He directs the Deepest Beliefs Lab, which studies morality, religion, and politics; and the Center for the Science of Moral Understanding, which works with practitioners to discover new ways to bridge divides. His forthcoming book is “Outraged: Why we fight about morality and politics.”

TRAVEL & ACCOMMODATIONS

Hampton Inn & Suites Chapel Hill-Carrboro/Downtown, 370 East Main Street, Unit 100
The Hampton Inn & Suites Chapel Hill-Carrboro/Downtown is located just 1.5 miles away from the conference location. While the walk is easy and safe, we will also be offering shuttle service to and from the conference. The room block closes on Friday, March 29, so don’t delay in making your reservations.

GETTING HERE

By Plane
RDU Airport is just 30 minutes from the conference hotel. There are several ground transportation options. The most economical — and recommended — options are Uber and Lyft, which pick-up customers in Zone 8.

RDU Airport’s recommended taxi service is Taxi Taxi, and walk-up service is available at both terminals. Other taxi companies and shuttle services are available as well.

By Train
The Durham Train Station is just 30 minutes from the conference hotel. Again, the most economical — and recommended — options for traveling from the station to the hotel are Uber and Lyft.

By Car
Self-parking at the hotel costs $20/day.

ABOUT CHAPEL HILL

Of the three cities that define the Triangle, Chapel Hill is the smallest with about 62,000 residents. What it lacks in size it makes up for in entertainment — much of which is found at the university. Explore the universe at Morehead Planetarium and Science Center , the training site for more than 60 NASA astronauts. Peruse the collections at the Ackland Art Museum, featuring 20,000 works of art. Admire indigenous and endangered plants — like the Venus flytrap, native to only North and South Carolina — at the North Carolina Botanical Garden. Fawn over Michael Jordan’s jersey at the Carolina Basketball Museum.

When you get hungry, walk — or use Chapel Hill’s free bus system — to one of the numerous establishments on Franklin and Rosemary streets. The list includes a James Beard Award-winning restaurant, The Lantern; Al’s Burger Shack, home of the “best burger in America,” according to Food & Wine Magazine; and Mama Dip’s Kitchen, cooking up Southern favorites. Additionally, both streets host eclectic venues for live music, boutique stores, and coffee shops.

ABOUT UNC-CHAPEL HILL

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is the nation’s first public university, founded in 1793. Today, it sits at the helm of North Carolina’s state university system, comprised of 17 universities from the mountains to the coast. UNC-Chapel Hill is home to 14 schools and the College of Arts & Sciences, more than 31,500 undergraduate and graduate students, and over 13,000 faculty and staff members. Carolina is also an R1 university and, since 2020, has conducted over $1 billion in research.

Carolina researchers and students are focused on solving the big, societal issues of our time, like finding cures for cancers and infectious diseases; expanding equity and opportunities; predicting, preparing, and mitigating weather emergencies that cause the loss of property and life; and creating solutions for problems like PFAS. Most recently, the university launched the UNC School of Data Science and Society, which will leverage these strengths and more to create an innovative curriculum and research portfolio for building the next generation of scientists.

Past Conferences

To find out what types of things we cover at our conferences, check out our previous conference information by clicking on a conference graphic. Session videos and slides are available on our Member Resources page.