LAUNCH: Undergraduate Research held its first-ever, all-day Undergraduate Research Expo in the Memorial Student Center on Oct. 4 on the campus of Texas A&M University. The event expanded on the two-hour resource fair held in years past.
The Chronicle of Higher Education dedicated a special report on Oct. 8 to the topic of undergraduate research and its importance. Universities have long known that undergraduate research can help increase retention and diversity, boost student placement in post-baccalaureate degrees and provide a strong foundation for lifelong learning.
With over 800 students in attendance over the course of the day, the LAUNCH: UGR office shined a spotlight on the resources, programs, and opportunities available to undergraduates wanting to become members of Texas A&M’s community of scholars through undergraduate research. Based on feedback collected from event-goers, undergraduates have already contacted one-third of faculty about their research opportunities as a direct result of the Expo, while nearly one-half of undergraduates still plan to make contact based on connections they made at the event. Overall, undergraduates were impressed by the variety of disciplines and opportunities represented. Next year, LAUNCH: UGR plans to recruit more research groups that are actively seeking applicants.
The Expo showcased opportunities for faculty, staff, graduate students and undergraduate students to get involved in undergraduate research. One of the most popular aspects of the event was a Speed Networking Panel in which 44 faculty members from across campus presented 60-second blurbs on their research and opportunities for undergraduates, followed by a networking social that provided time for students and faculty to visit informally about opportunities and involvement.
Morning panels targeted administrators, faculty, staff and graduate students with presentations including, “Research Cultures and Mentoring Models” and “Successful Integration of Undergraduates into Your Research Community.” Panelists highlighted themes of community, but their discussions also emphasized how building on individual members’ talents and skills has strengthened research. Faculty made it clear that GPA is not the only consideration for collaborative work in research, and often faculty members seek freshmen and sophomores for their research projects because they provide fresh insight and the potential for longevity as teammates during their college careers.
In the afternoon, multiple spaces in the MSC were used to house concurrent events for undergraduate students that included: a two-hour Resource Fair, the Aggie Research Program’s Aggie Research Scholars’ poster presentations, and three break-out sessions led by faculty, staff and graduate students (LAUNCH: UGR’s Getting Started in Research, Team v. Individual Research, and Research Opportunities and Resources). Undergraduates in attendance overwhelmingly commented on the value of their interactions with other undergraduate researchers.
Undergraduate Research supports Texas A&M’s commitment to high-impact practices and learning outcomes identified in its Quality Enhancement Program by engaging students in experiences that allow them to take learning beyond the classroom as they master depth of knowledge in their fields as well as critical thinking skills.
Undergraduate Research also is one of the ways that faculty, staff and graduate students at Texas A&M create transformational learning through discovery of new knowledge and innovative approaches to real-world challenges. Volunteers for the Expo included LAUNCH Undergraduate Research Ambassadors, Learning Communities’ Peer Mentors and LAUNCH staff members.
Planning has already begun for next year’s Expo in October 2018.
Media contact: Dr. Sarah M. Misemer, Associate Director, Undergraduate Research, at 979-458-0039 or firstname.lastname@example.org; or Elena Watts, Division of Marketing & Communications, at 979-458-8412 or email@example.com.