Undergraduate research at UMBC

Nimasha Fernando

Staff Writer

nfernan1@umbc.edu

Summary: UMBC offers undergraduate students numerous resources to become involved in research and develop the skills necessary for further education or employment.

   UMBC is a dedicated research institution, evident by the U.S. News recent recognition of UMBC as a top school for undergraduate research and creative projects.

“I never thought I would ever do research”, said Olufunmilayo Makinde, senior health administration and policy major. “However, I have found that research is what you make it.” Makinde, is now an undergraduate researcher affiliated with the UMBC Sociology and Anthropology department and McNair Scholars program.

“Research, scholarship, and independent creative work all allow students to gain hands-on experience in the field they are studying, develop a mentoring relationship, find out whether they like working in this aspect of their field [and] apply classroom learning,” said Janet McGlynn, Director of Communication and Outreach for the UMBC Office of Undergraduate Education.

McGlynn and Dr. Diane Lee, UMBC’s Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education, both believe that undergraduate research experience is a fundamental supplement to classroom instruction.

“Experience in authentic research is an advantage, whether seeking admission to graduate school or the workplace. Such experience suggests that you have the skills and knowledge required to pose and solve problems, to persevere, to conduct systematic study, to analyze and synthesize data, to critique articles and communicate effectively in your discipline” said Lee.

To aid students in their quest for research experience, UMBC maintains numerous resources for students to learn about acquiring a research position and optimizing the involvement.

“I definitely think that information from the Office of Undergraduate Research [Education] about general steps to take was helpful,” said Makinde.

The Office of Undergraduate Education hosts numerous events throughout the semester for potential undergraduate researchers, such as “How to Get Started in Research” presentations and research program application workshops.

UMBC also offers committed scholars Undergraduate Research Awards (URAs), travel grants to attend academic conferences, on-campus presentation events such as URCAD and publication options such as UMBC’s Bartleby or the Review.

“The most helpful resource that I found was my department’s faculty. Professors are a mine of information – use it!” said Amber Barnett, senior ancient studies major and department researcher.

Resources for professional etiquette such as how to compose professional e-mails, in addition to summer research program links and updates about upcoming campus research informational sessions can be found at umbc.edu/oue/research/.

“Sometimes research stinks” said Sara ‘Cheli’ Arussy, junior Chemical Engineering major. “You can get stuck and your experimental results can be extremely unexpected. But when that happens, you know you are on the verge of something fantastic!”

“It is empowering to realize that you are one of the only people in the world and in history looking at a particular concept, process, or mechanism in a certain way” said Arussy, who currently works in UMBC’s Marten Lab through the Biology and Engineering Departments.

“My advice is to ‘love the questions themselves’” said Lee, quoting poet Maria Rilke. “Find joy, excitement, and delight in the art and science of discovery…Bottom line – follow your interests and engage in authentic research… In the common vernacular of the day, ‘Just do it!’”