I am an undergraduate researcher working for VAR Lab under a grant that is allowing me to be paid to do public relations research that will later be used to develop a public relations campaign. This research is being conducted for a majority of the summer of 2020 under the Penn State Behrend 2020 Undergraduate Student Summer Remote Research Grant. Research on the target audience for a public relations (PR) campaign is necessary and will create an interdisciplinary research space that will, as a result, enable the lab to increase public support and awareness within Penn State and the community. It is evident that public relations campaigns centered on outreach and promotion needs implementing. The initial research and data gathering seeks to find what audience would be most receptive to interact with the lab to ensure that future dissemination of information originating from the lab is done both efficiently and with optimal impact. This is being done by reaching targeted audiences using a variety of communication channels; interactions will then be evaluated based on two-way communication. Using the data gained from this research, the anticipated outcome will enable the VAR Lab to establish what public relations methods work best in furthering the lab’s goals and expectations. The data obtained from this study will allow for replication, accounting for the minor changes that come with progress and will ensure future outgoing communications from the lab will be done so in the most effective manner.

In the most basic manor this research can be broken down into three parts: (1) Evaluating the promotional feasibility of LiDAR services among local, businesses, organizations, and industry partners, (2) Building a deeper understanding of the implications of VR/AR (Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality) technology and the fields in which research is necessary so that a campaign targeted towards faculty to use the lab for research can be built, and (3) Building a website that clearly explains the functions and goals of the lab, as well as how students, faculty members, community or industry partners, etc. can become involved.

The work I do at VAR Lab has been invaluable to my undergraduate experience. Not only has it given me experience in the field of public relations outside of the classroom context, but it has also helped me become an independent worker. In contrast to most internships where an intern is assigned specific tasks and told what to do by a supervisor, I wrote a grant proposal outlining what I wanted to do and what I thought would be most beneficial to my education and the goals of the lab. This proposal was then critically examined by administrative faculty of the college for scholarly merit and academic worth. In addition to this, the grant was also competitive, so I had to compete against other applicants for acceptance. This extensive process ensured that I had the oversite of someone more experienced than I, similar to how a supervisor would oversee an intern, however, it was not constricting as an internship because it allowed me to choose work that was meaningful to me as well as the lab.

Link to Full Report: LiDAR Study