Office of Undergraduate Research: Making Research More Accessible

Written by Kasey Harris

After attending a conference on undergraduate research, which included sessions on innovative ideas for alternative funding for student research, Heather King, in the Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) was inspired to explore what more NC State could do to help support the undergraduate students seeking research opportunities.

Understanding limitations such as time, financial need, and other factors which may restrict students’ involvement in undergraduate research, King reached out to the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid to see what support the university could offer. By Fall of 2017, King was able to lay the groundwork to develop 21 research assistant positions through the Federal Work Study (FWS) program.

King also saw the need to expand OUR’s research opportunities and to ensure the program was inclusive of all students at NC State. She was able to develop a partnership with TRIO Programs, which works to provide educational opportunities to all students. Through this partnership, OUR welcomed students who had little to no prior experience in research, and many who found their field of study outside the accepted definition of research. “There are areas in the humanities or design, where research is called something different, like scholarly endeavors,” explained King, “these students are doing the same things, and we want to make sure they are aware of OUR’s opportunities as well.”According to Drake Johnson, a Chemistry major, the research assistant position provides students an “opportunity to do meaningful work in the research lab,” and to be “more engaged in their work, and reap more than just the financial benefits.” Johnson explains “There is an increasing need for undergraduates to get experience through working in research labs alongside graduate students and faculty, not only for the future opportunities it may afford but also for application of many skills learned in class.” He further explains the experience offers students opportunities to  “branch out from working in a laboratory,” to areas “such as conferences and research presentations, which all are great resume builders and provide a wider view of possible careers.”

“Working on undergraduate research has been my favorite thing I’ve experienced in my college career,” explained Sophie Nanno-Gorbachev, a junior majoring in Fashion Textile Management. Nanno-Gorbachev felt she gained valuable experience in an array of areas such as networking, public speaking, academic writing, time management, and presenting her research in various formats. She was also able to translate her experience into success outside of the academic arena, crediting her undergraduate research as providing her with the ability “to stand out among other applicants and ultimately be hired as an intern in, basically, [my] dream position, a research intern at HanesBrands Inc.”

For students looking to pursue research opportunities through OUR, King advises students to “look into the faculty member you want to work with,” she continues, “the only university requirement to participate in research is that you have a faculty mentor.” The OUR Getting Started page is a great jumping off point, for students looking to get involved. “Reach out to faculty and explain what your interests are,” continued King, “all of our faculty are doing research, and they want to know how students’ interests and passions can relate to what they are working on.”

About OUR

The Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) provides NC State undergraduate students the opportunity to pursue multifaceted research opportunities through mentored experiences with NC State faculty, as well as other scholars and professionals in their areas of interest. In addition to the new partnership with the FWS program, OUR offers several undergraduate research grants to NC State students which assist in funding student research opportunities and can be used to purchase supplies and materials. The office also provides a number of travel grants to help undergraduate students in presenting their research on a national stage. Students are welcome to apply for both OUR FWS positions and OUR grants; however, students are unable to be awarded both. For more information on OUR and the OUR FWS research assistant positions, please visit the OUR website, or contact the office at undergraduate-research@ncsu.edu.

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