Sureeta Rai Presents Her Research at the FCAT Undergraduate Conference

February 27, 2023

Sureeta Rai is a third-year School of Communication student. She is also pursuing a minor in International Studies with a concentration in Global Development, Economic and Environmental Issues. This Friday, Sureeta will be attending the 2023 FCAT Undergraduate Conference, where she will present her research project, The Social Repercussions of Technology on Disability Rights.

We sat down with Sureeta to hear all about her research and experience as a CMNS student.

Tell us about your research project.

My research project focuses on understanding how the development of technologies, like computers, continues to reproduce systemic inequalities and limit the freedom of disembodied individuals. My research is divided into three sections; Part 1: Scholarly Research, which explores biopolitics and the role of the government in creating paternalistic control over disability rights. Part 2: Media Discourse Analysis, which analyzes the media coverage of disability rights in the new outlets, specifically The Washington Post. And finally, Part 3: Historical Lens, which compares the history of disability rights in relation to technology with various intersections such as race and gender. 

How did you become interested in this research topic?

In Fall 2022, I took CMNS 353 Topics in Technology and Society with Professor Stephanie Dick. For our final project, we were given the opportunity to further explore a week of lecture that most interested us. I was particularly fascinated by Professor Dick’s lecture on disability rights. It inspired me to choose this research topic for my final project.

This was the first course I had heard of disability rights being discussed as an intersectional topic of social justice issues, which isn’t always commonly talked about. In general, I find most approaches to intersectionality focused on social justice from the perspective of racial and gender inequalities, so the discussion of disability rights was very engaging and made me eager to learn more. 

How do you feel about presenting at the UGC? What are you most excited for?

I am a roller coaster of emotions, but I am mostly excited. To present my research in front of the faculty and my peers is such an honour. I am most excited to see the other unique projects and presentations that showcase the excellence and creativity the FCAT students have to offer! 

Would you recommend getting into research opportunities as an undergraduate student?

Yes, I would definitely get into research opportunities as an undergraduate student, especially for those who are interested in pursuing post-graduate studies in the future. However, even if you don’t have a particular idea of what you want to research, maybe you want to expand your research on a previous project that you did in a course. There are so many opportunities when you pursue research, such as taking on an honours project or being a research assistant for a professor whose class you enjoyed. 

What have you learned most about yourself from this project?

After completing my research, I have become more aware of my privilege as an abled body individual who has access to experience the world through a different lens. I used to take for granted how accessible the world is for me, especially being able to use technology, which is an essential part of my daily life. For example, operating a computer requires using multiple parts of our body that can be difficult for people with certain physical disabilities. This project also helped me understand the crucial role of policy and governmental systems that create the majority of these limitations to society for people with disabilities.

What advice do you have for your CMNS peers?

Get involved with FCAT as soon as possible! Our faculty consists of some of the most friendly and kind staff members at SFU who are always willing to help students explore different opportunities. If you don't know where to start, I would recommend chatting to an advisor or even a professor whose class you enjoyed which can help build great connections. This was exactly how I made so many great connections with my profs, advisors, and other Communication students! In fact, I attended one of the CMNSU Coffee Hours where I was offered an opportunity to apply for a research assistant position with one of my professors from my previous classes. To put it shortly, don’t be afraid to reach out or talk to your profs outside of class. We are very fortunate to have such an amazing faculty, so take advantage of these opportunities to chat with them. You never know what opportunities are available until you ask! 

What sort of research do you hope to pursue in the future?

Bio politics is defiantly a huge interest of mine and learning how the body can be used as a means of state oppression and shaping policy. I am currently in the process of applying to be a research assistant in the Fall of 2023.  

What has been your most memorable moment so far here in the School of Communication?

I have had the privilege of being able to connect with many of the School of Communication’s Faculty members and fellow students. One of the most memorable moments was attending the Evolve Discovery Event hosted by the Communications Student Union. I had the opportunity to connect with our faculty Co-op coordinators, make new friends, and meet industry professionals. Starting my first two years in the midst of COVID-19 really limited the social gathering and opportunity to network with people in person. This event was definitely a great way to start off the school year and allowed me to explore more career and volunteer opportunities in the School of Communications. I can't wait for more experiences like this to come!


Don't forget to come to the 2023 FCAT Undergraduate Conference March 3 from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. PST. Full event details and registration here.