Both the name and the reach of the University’s undergraduate research program have been extended.
What began in 2004 as the Office of Undergraduate Research was, this year, renamed the Center for Undergraduate Research and Scholarship and relocated to 209E Harshman Quadrangle.
The “scholarship” was added “to broaden the definition of what we would fund as research and scholarship,” explained the center’s director, Dr. Paul Moore. People tend to think of the natural sciences when they hear “research,” but “a tremendous amount of good work” is also done in other fields—the arts, humanities and business, for instance—that the center would like to support as well, he said.
At the same time, the center is coordinating with other campus programs that support undergraduate student engagement, including Academic Investment in Math and Science (AIMS), Student Achievement in Research and Scholarship (STARS) and the McNair Scholars Program. While each initiative has a different emphasis, “the underlying purpose of all of these is to engage students,” said Moore, biological sciences and director of the BGSU Honors Program.
Not knowing how to become involved is the biggest factor limiting undergraduate research, he said. Some students also think they can’t do it until they’re seniors; the center advises them to invest in a relationship with faculty early on and connect with those they know about research projects. “Where to Begin” and “Selecting a Faculty Mentor” lead the list of “Resources for Students” on the center’s Web site.
Faculty look for student researchers they have experience with, Moore said, but in focus-group conversations earlier this year, participating faculty also wanted to discuss when students are developmentally ready to do research, noted Christopher Bullins, a doctoral assistant at the center. Among the discussion was how to get freshmen and sophomores into the process, perhaps as research assistants to start, said Bullins, who facilitated the focus groups.
Another topic of conversation was learning outcomes and, more specifically, determining what they should be and measuring if they were met at project’s end. In keeping with a widespread move toward assessment, expected outcomes must be made clear to student researchers from the start of a project and later revisited to see how successful the students were in reaching them, Moore said.
The center’s services for students also include increased instruction in writing research grant proposals, along with funding and help with communicating their research results.
The academic-year funding program is Awards in Support of Undergraduate Research, 15 of which are available both for fall and spring semester. Grants of up to $500 are offered for supplies associated with a student’s research or creative activities. Jan. 28 is the deadline for applications for spring grants, which are funded by Provost Shirley Baugher’s office. “She wants students engaged in the scholarship of their discipline,” Moore said.
While the deadline for spring is three months away, “students and faculty should start planning now,” according to Bullins. Students “can be thinking of topics and seeking mentors,” he added, and “faculty can use this time to market the experience to students and encourage them to conduct research as undergraduates.”
Summer grants are as much as $500 as well, coupled with a $2,500 stipend for undergraduates who commit to an intensive, 10-week project supervised by faculty mentors. Faculty are eligible for up to $400 for supplies in the summer program, which has a March 4 application deadline.
The third element of the center’s funding program is grants of up to $200 for travel to professional conferences to present research findings.
“We have the money,” said Moore about financial support for research. “We need to get it to people.”
Next month, the center will hold its Symposium on Undergraduate Research in conjunction with the seventh annual BGSU Research Conference, hosted by the Office of Sponsored Programs and Research (SPAR). Events are set for 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 6 in the Lenhart Grand Ballroom of the Bowen-Thompson Student Union. Eighteen BGSU students who received research funding last summer are scheduled to make presentations; others interested in doing so must register with SPAR by 5 p.m. Friday (Oct. 24) at www.bgsu.edu/offices/spar.
“We need to combine efforts,” Moore said, pointing out that undergraduates who present their findings in such a setting can get feedback from faculty and graduate students and feel more a part of the academic community.
Another collaborative event, planned again for April 2009 in Columbus, is Poster Day at the Capitol. At the inaugural day last April, about 30 students from BGSU and the universities of Toledo and Findlay presented projects to Ohio officials at the Statehouse, Moore said.