Wednesday, 15 October 2014

One student's journey with undergraduate research

This week’s blog post comes from Bo Bao, a 3rd year Peer Undergraduate Research Liaison (PURL) with the Undergraduate Research Initiative. We asked him to reflect on his undergraduate research experiences and his work with URI.

Why did you get involved with URI?

I became involved with the URI in my first year of university back in 2012 because I wanted to inspire others to explore and discover the various learning opportunities offered through undergraduate research. Undergraduate research has benefited me personally because it has been integral in supporting and enhancing my academic learning experiences. I first got involved in mentored research with the Sanofi Aventis Biogenius Challenge (SABC) at the recommendation of my high school biology teacher. Getting started was extremely challenging. There were no resources available to advise me on how to approach a research professor and there was no database informing me of potential mentors interested in hiring a student. While I was fortunate to obtain a position, there were many other motivated and qualified students who were not given the opportunity to pursue research.

How did your involvement with URI & undergraduate research benefit you?

My participation in a mentored research project was significant because it invigorated my interest in sciences and it inspired me to pursue an undergraduate career in Honors Neurosciences program. The process of pursuing a research opportunity can be very challenging without a support network. This past summer, I once again got involved in undergraduate research with the assistance of URI. Through URI, I was able to connect with a research professor for a research position, get advice on funding resources available to support my research project, and I have an opportunity to present my research at the Undergraduate Research Symposium. During my research project, the whole process of designing a research plan, carrying out experimental work and analyzing data encourages collaborative problem solving and facilitates an interactive learning environment. I learned to collaborate with an interdisciplinary team of professionals, critically solve problems and conduct myself professionally.

How has URI changed since you got involved?

As one of the first group of student to volunteer with URI, a “first generation PURL”, I have grown alongside URI, witnessing the expansion and the impact that URI has made within the community. The expansion of Undergraduate Research Symposium into Festival of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (FURCA) reflects the growing culture of undergraduate research and creative activities here at the University of Alberta. FURCA provides undergraduate students the opportunity to engage in cutting edge research and put their curiosity to work through programs such as the Research Crawls, the Undergraduate Research Symposium and the Undergraduate Research Resource Fair.

How can other students get started in undergraduate research?

I encourage you to check out URI’s events calendar (we’re having a session about getting started in research on November 18th), the Undergraduate Research Portal on eClass, or visit URI for advice. You can meet with the URI staff or one of the PURLs to find out about resources available to support your project, such as the URI Undergraduate Researcher Stipend.

This year FURCA will be supported by our crowdfunding campaign on the USEED platform so that that whole community can be involved in our celebration of undergraduate research. To support and be a part of the growing culture of undergraduate research, I encourage everyone to check out our campaign page and help us by contributing to the campaign or sharing it with your friends!

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