This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

FSEC input sought on undergraduate research

Published: December 2, 2004

Contributing Editor

Timothy A. Tryjankowski, program coordinator for UB's newest office—the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowship—told the Faculty Senate Executive Committee yesterday that he hopes the center soon will be the busiest office on campus as well.

Tryjankowski said the center exists to bring together undergraduate students and research opportunities at UB. Its formation emerged from the fact that as UB attracts more academically talented students, they are more likely to want to be involved in research during their undergraduate years here.

"Students are attracted to UB because of the research opportunities," he said. "We tout our research opportunities when we recruit students to campus, and yet when they get here, sometimes I'm hearing it's difficult for students to find those opportunities.

"The center will be one nexus for undergraduate research opportunities across campus, around the community and throughout UB for those students not otherwise served."

While many UB schools and departments already have a solid structure in place to connect undergraduates to research projects, other areas have just begun to put such programs in place and need guidance, he said.

"As freshmen coming onto campus, unless they're in a specialized program directly in a department, there is some difficulty for a student to find out what's going on," he said. "Hopefully, my office will be another sleeve, another avenue for students to quickly find out about those opportunities."

A UB undergraduate admissions advisor for five years, Tryjankowski most recently had been assistant for research, enrollment and planning for the vice provost for enrollment and planning.

As program coordinator, he will establish the center as a clearinghouse of information on current undergraduate research and "creative activity" at UB, as well as an agent to publicize the successes among these projects.

"The tracking of these opportunities and the celebrations of their success is limited on campus. I've uncovered—it looks like it stopped somewhere around 1991 or 1992—there were actual research days on campus, poster sessions where undergrad students were encouraged to come out and poster their work. The faculty involved with those students—their mentors—were very much recognized for their work. In some disciplines that still goes on, in some special programs, that still goes on, but we're not doing that campus-wide."

Tryjankowski is polling UB faculty and staff for suggestions for "a prominent Web presence" for the center, as well as a system for preparing both students and faculty to conduct research and creative activities together.

"I hope to set up some workshops, some training for students, so that students aren't going cold to the faculty and saying 'I'm here. What can I do for you?' but have some interest in the research project and do some background work before they dive in to it," Tryjankowski said.

UB faculty also will play a pivotal role in ensuring the center's usefulness. Tryjankowski will consult all departments for information on their current and future projects.

"Faculty involvement in our research will be the driving force behind this initiative," he said. "Please allow me to assist you in recruiting talented students, verifying their work and acknowledging the efforts of both the students and the faculty."

Tryjankowski said he wants to offer the center Web site as a resource for faculty members to advertise research positions and locate potential candidates. The center will not be in the business of evaluating current research and other activities at UB, he added.

"I just want to be aware of them so that I can sort of harness them, package them, deliver them to whatever publics want to know about this, and of course advertise them for our undergrad students," he said. "If you are doing this in your department already, by all means, I'm not looking to reinvent the wheel. I'll be in contact with deans and department chairs to figure out how I can mesh or best work with existing programs on campus."

FSEC members supported the notion that the center should provide training in advance for research and other activities, especially to incoming freshmen, which Tryjankowski said is a common practice in many universities. The University of Michigan, for example, contacts incoming transfer and freshman students, then trains those interested in participating in a research project "for one month on how to contact faculty, how to do research, how to do Internet research—all the things these faculty say they want from freshmen and sophomores. They are trained to be undergraduate researchers," Tryjankowski said.

Kenneth J. Takeuchi, professor of chemistry and chair of the senate's Educational Programs and Policy Committee, reported that his group suggested that Tryjankowski develop "some type of a contract" or form for students and faculty members to complete prior to beginning a project to help each describe their expectations for the project and promote a successful undertaking by both parties.

He also believes that input from UB departments will be vital to the center.

"We thought as a committee that in order for us to determine what students are doing, it's really up to the departments to designate some kind of a number of courses they feel primarily have a research component to them and it would be up to them to define what they believe research and creative activity is, as opposed to us trying to come up with some umbrella definition," Takeuchi said.

He said that one of his committee's members, Cecil O. Walters of the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program, has volunteered to discuss that program's structure with Tryjankowski to help facilitate development of the structure for the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowship.

The Educational Programs and Policy Committee also suggested that Tryjankowski work with Jeannette Molina of the Center for Teaching and Learning Resources to develop workshops to help faculty understand how to best structure undergraduate research and creative projects.