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Forum aims to improve undergrad research experience

Scott Weber speaks at a forum designed to discuss best practices for working with undergraduate student researchers. Photo: Nancy J. Parisi


Published May 26, 2014

“Through the mentoring process, you can get put on a trajectory to achieve wonderful things.”
Andrew Stott, dean for undergraduate education

In an effort to improve research experiences for undergraduate students, more than 60 UB faculty mentors and summer research program staff met last week to discuss the best practices for coaching young students.

The inaugural session, “Getting the Most from Undergraduate Researchers,” was hosted by the Office of Undergraduate Education. Rajendram Rajnarayanan, assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology, led the workshop.

The forum tackled issues encountered by most graduate and faculty mentors, which included learning to trust inexperienced researchers; developing techniques to improve their students’ motivation, work ethic and attention to detail; and opening up discussions about diversity in the lab.

“This is the first time that all the summer programs are coming together to do this activity,” said Rajnarayanan. “By starting this dialogue and asking what have they done that worked, we can learn more from their process and help future mentors and attract students.”

The workshop promoted summer as the ideal time for research, since both students and faculty were free from classes. Conducting research also allows undergraduates to build relationships with their professors and discover their interests early in their academic careers.

Remarks also were delivered by Provost Charles F. Zukoski; A. Scott Weber, senior vice provost for academic affairs; Alexander Cartwright, vice president for research and economic development; and Andrew Stott, dean for undergraduate education.

“Often there is a perception that coming to a large campus means that you will be anonymous in the classroom and you won’t get the kind of one-on-one attention that you might get in a smaller college,” Stott said. “But through undergraduate research, we’ve reversed that trend completely because undergraduate research is heavily mentored.”

“Through the mentoring process, you can get put on a trajectory to achieve wonderful things,” he added. “If you think about the students we’ve had at UB who’ve done amazing things, who’ve won Marshall prizes, Fulbright’s, Goldwater’s, Udall’s and all other kinds of accolades, fellowships and scholarships. Every single one of them has done undergraduate research at some stage.”

Faculty and staff in attendance were invited to participate based on their efforts in providing summer research opportunities across the university.

Some of the programs sending representatives to the forum included:

  • The Undergraduate Academies
  • The Honors College
  • Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP)
  • McNair Scholars Program
  • SUNY Louis Stokes Alliance for minority Participation (LSAMP)
  • Institute for Strategic Enhancement of Educational Diversity (iSEED)
  • Climb Up
  • BioXFEL Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (BSURE)
  • American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.