Undergraduate Research Opportunities at the Click of a Mouse

The Office of Undergraduate Research has launched a Web portal that will connect students with research opportunities on the UA campus and beyond.
Sept. 18, 2009
Melissa Revelle, UA senior and 2009 Excellence in Undergraduate Research Award winner.
Melissa Revelle, UA senior and 2009 Excellence in Undergraduate Research Award winner.

Water issues, cancer research, monsoons, robotics, lung disease, germs and space.

What do they have in common? All of them are research opportunities University of Arizona freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors potentially have available to them right here and right now.

Thanks to a new Web portal offered through the Office of Undergraduate Research, housed at the UA College of Science, access to these and other undergraduate research opportunities are readily available.  

The College of Science Web site provides students with a step-by-step process to access information that will assist them in finding research opportunities, including those in science, technology, engineering and math, but also in broader university wide programs. 

"The Web site provides general information about undergraduate research as well as useful search tools through a sortable program database that contains broad descriptions of each program and links to individual Web sites where more specific information and application procedures are identified," said Glenda Gentile, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research.

The Web site also has a searchable database with information on UA faculty interested in working with undergraduate students. 

The idea to create the database and centralize information about UA research opportunities came from Gail Burd, former associate dean of the UA College of Science and now vice provost of academic affairs and a distinguished professor of molecular and cellular biology.

"Several national studies have shown that undergraduate research improves undergraduate retention, provides more satisfaction with a major in science, and increases the percentage of students who go to graduate and professional school after graduation," Burd said. "Fortunately, greater than 60 percent of the graduates in the College of Science do independent research, with many working with faculty in other departments and colleges."

The Web site's home in the College of Science is significant. The UA College of Science now resides within the UA College of Letters, Arts and Science – making it the largest college on campus and home to nearly 40 percent of students.

"Research continues to be one of the distinguishing hallmarks of the UA, and we are pleased that our undergraduate students make significant contributions to it," said Elliott Cheu, associate dean of the UA College of Science.

The effort is part of the UA's commitment to provide research opportunities to undergraduates.

"There are a number of studies that indicate that students that take part in undergraduate research perform significantly better than those students that do not. In addition, these activities expose our students to some of the most exciting endeavors on campus, and help them to better connect with the UA faculty," said Cheu.

The Web site also provides students and advisers with easy-to-use search tools to help them find research opportunities that best meet specific student career goals or helps them decide which discipline is right for them.

"Doing research was the best way for me to determine what interested me in physics and astronomy. I had always found different subjects interesting, but being involved in them is a completely different experience," said UA senior and honors student Melissa Revelle. "The research is how I decided what to study."

Revelle, a physics major, received the spring 2009 Excellence in Undergraduate Research Award from the College of Science. A simple inquiry to her departmental adviser on research opportunities has provided Revelle with an impressive resume that includes working for one summer in Florence, Italy. While there, she worked at the Osservatorio Astrofisico di Arcetri on the adaptive optics system for the Large Binocular Telescope.   

"I would suggest just getting involved. During the semester, even a small time commitment is worth it. You learn many practical skills you can never learn in a classroom, along with how to work in a group, and you learn about yourself. If you don't know what you are interested in, read a book or paper about the field. If it is at all interesting, give it a shot. The only way to know is to try it out," Revelle said.

The Office of Undergraduate Research invites UA faculty with research opportunities who are currently not listed on the Web site to contact Glenda Gentile at 520-626-7428 or to send an email to ggentile@email.arizona.edu to be included.