In mid-July, 36 students representing 12 disciplines across five colleges participated in the CURS Summer Scholars Symposium, a two hour event where undergraduate researchers presented their research to invited deans, chairs and interested community members.
The Center for Undergraduate Research and Scholarship (CURS) facilitates undergraduate research opportunities throughout the year, but the summer program brings students a more focused, intense research experience.
Paired with faculty mentors who have gone through a rigorous submission process to make sure the opportunities provide students a truly active role in the research, students in the Summer Scholars program are hired to work 20 hours a week on their research project.
Because of the intensity, the proposals are closely evaluated on how the students will be utilized. Not only do some students end up graduating with publications under their belts, faculty frequently take students with them to conferences, all of which helps with student progression, retention and graduation.
And because students are now required to sign up for a zero credit course that documents the research experience on official transcripts, the university will be able to better track students as they move through their academic career and study the impact of the opportunity.
The symposium, where students typically create a poster that demonstrates their research methods, allows students to field questions about their work, though not all research is represented by posters. This summer, an art project involving the 3D printing of clay resulted in a display of pieces created by the research.
According to Melissa Knapp, CURS coordinator, such variety is important.
“We try to make sure that CURS represents the whole university and includes many disciplines to showcase the breadth of research our undergrads can participate in,” she said.
Ultimately, the experience provides students with beneficial insight into their chosen field of study.
“All the students I’ve talked to, especially in the summer program, just learn so much more about their major and specifically their project,” Knapp said. “Most who participate in the summer program have goals to continue into a graduate program.”