Undergraduate Research Opportunities

by Jacoba Mendlekow

Have you ever wanted to learn about sagebrush and its relationship to the Mormon Cricket? What about developing a better electrical circuit to run a computer? Ever wanted to visit Red Cloud, Nebraska to find the missing papers of author Willa Cather in the basement of the Grace Episcopal Church? There is a way for these research experiences to happen, and the USU Undergraduate Research Program is ready to help.

Since 1975, USU’s Undergraduate Research Program has provided opportunities for students to take control of their research interests and dive head-on into discovering their own research passions and strengths. Students can create their own projects to best suit their research goals and all disciplines are supported. This means studying rock formations in Logan Canyon or petroglyphs along the Colorado River in Moab or engineering autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles.

In addition to tailoring their research for the best personal fit, students can be different kinds of researchers as well. Undergraduate Research and Creative Opportunity (URCO) grants give students funding by supporting travel to research sites, equipment costs, technical support, or mitigating the cost of research supplies. The award amount for a successfully chosen research project is $1,000—half paid by USU’s Undergraduate Research Program and the other half paid by the sponsoring department. Information can be found online at www.usu.edu/research/undergrad.

Other opportunities for funding include student travel awards through the ASUSU Academic Opportunity Fund, which provides undergraduate researchers with support to present their research. If awarded, students may receive up to $500 to present their research at a conference of peers and scholars.

Opportunities like travel and URCO grants allow students to learn from their research and implement that knowledge outside the classroom. Undergraduate student researchers are better prepared for the job market or graduate school after graduation than their less-researched peers. The term “Undergraduate Research Scholar” can even be added to academic transcripts of research students.

“Undergraduate research helps students build stronger resumes with real-life experiences—making them better candidates when shopping the job market,” said Joyce Kinkead, associate vice president for research. Because the Undergraduate Research Program allows students the control of choosing projects to fit within their interests, students are more engaged in their studies. Additionally, student researchers are paired with faculty mentors, who can open additional doors for student researchers in the form of fellowships and prestigious awards.