LOADING

Type to search

Why Undergraduate Research?

Curriculum Planning and Development Students

Why Undergraduate Research?

undergraduate research
While research is a vital tool for graduate students and graduate programs, unfortunately, little or no research is done on the undergraduate level. When people think of research, they often connect it with science and engineering, creating the misguided perception that it is done only in those areas. However, all areas of study sometimes require a certain amount of research or background checking of some kind. Consequently, this article provides an overview of undergraduate research and emphasizes its importance, advantages, and benefits.

To continue reading, you must be a Academic Leader Subscriber. Please log in or sign up for full access.

Tags:

You Might also Like

Leave a Comment

[dropcap]While[/dropcap] research is a vital tool for graduate students and graduate programs, unfortunately, little or no research is done on the undergraduate level. When people think of research, they often connect it with science and engineering, creating the misguided perception that it is done only in those areas. However, all areas of study sometimes require a certain amount of research or background checking of some kind. Consequently, this article provides an overview of undergraduate research and emphasizes its importance, advantages, and benefits. Background A Wikipedia article provides a concise definition, history, and explanation of undergraduate research: Undergraduate research is the exploration of a specific topic within a field by an undergraduate student that makes an original contribution to the discipline. It is a fairly recent concept in the academic community, with roots in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The creation of MIT’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) in 1969 encouraged an explosion in popularity. Undergraduate research programs were fairly common by the 1990s. Students may work on their own, collaborate with faculty members, or seek enrollment in a research program within their field. Both faculty members and students experience advantages and disadvantages when collaborating on research. Undergraduate research can be conducted in the sciences (both biological and physical) and in the humanities. The research approach differs depending on the field and the focus. Undergraduate research is often required for acceptance into graduate and professional schools. In reading this explanation, a few key phrases stand out: exploration of a specific topic; contribution to discipline; students may work on their own; collaborate with faculty members; seek enrollment in a research program; and conducted in the sciences and in the humanities. These are just a few of the benefits that will be emphasized in this article. Benefits of undergraduate research     The major benefits of undergraduate research include building a strong research foundation for the institution and developing good researchers at an early age. Other benefits include enhancing faculty teaching capabilities, contributing to science through research, and developing faculty and undergraduate student research collaboration. These benefits accrue to the institution, the faculty, and the student (both in graduate school and in the workforce). The Institution Research is to innovation what gas is to an engine. Those colleges and universities that decide to commit to research will be in the forefront of innovation, and will ultimately contribute to social, technological, and economic advances. Specific benefits include: Rather than focusing on why colleges and universities should be involved in research, the more important issue should be why they aren’t already involved with it; and not just some, but all institutions. Research is basically synonymous with educating. The only difference is that while most schools typically focus on teaching existing concepts, research provides the opportunity to expand existing concepts into new and wider ranging concepts. According to the Council on Undergraduate Research, colleges and universities already involved in undergraduate research claim the following benefits: The Faculty Faculty members who devote their time and energy to undergraduate research enhance their teaching skills and contribute to society by passing on the knowledge and innovations resulting from the research. Through mentoring students in the research process, they also benefit from better student-instructor bonding and relationships. Other benefits for instructors include: The Student Undergraduate research is equally important to the student who intends to enter the workforce immediately after graduation as it is to the student who intends to go on to graduate school. Most generally, it is assumed that only those who intend to enter graduate school should know and experience the basics of research; but students who are exposed to undergraduate research learn skills that will help them in the workforce, should they decide not to go to graduate school. Additionally, those who do undergraduate research soon find out whether they are suited for a career in the sciences or other areas that require ongoing research. The benefits of undergraduate research for those intending to enter graduate school include: The undergraduate research benefits listed above–especially the teamwork skills–are equally applicable to students who intend to enter the workforce after graduation by providing students with real-life experience that could prove useful during an internship or to employers looking for highly qualified graduating seniors. There is often some level of research involved in many workforce occupations. Just because such research isn’t of an experimental nature or conducted in a laboratory environment doesn’t mean that the skills aren’t needed. Many companies still require basic skills in collaboration, scheduling, and teamwork, which good undergraduate research can provide. A final word To remind the reader that undergraduate research is tremendously important is like beating a dead horse. Of course it’s important. The main issue, then, is how to drive the message home to those who would profit the most: the undergraduate students who have never given research a second–or even a first–thought. Even those who plan on skipping graduate school and entering the workforce after graduation shouldn’t be written off as unapproachable. And who bears the responsibility for delivering the message and ensuring that it is received? The immediate answer, of course, is the faculty–especially faculty members who are engaged in their own independent research. But, like anyone else, they need and deserve a helping hand. They need the support and backing of school administrators, other faculty members in other disciplines (as part of the education team), students already working on research programs or projects, and even members of the community–in particular, business owners and leaders who stand to gain from hiring highly qualified graduates. Chris O’Riordan-Adjah, PhD, MS, PE, is director of engineering programs and associate professor at Principia College in Elsah, Illinois. He is a professional engineer licensed in Michigan, Florida, Illinois, and Missouri, and is an independent structural engineering contractor.