With programs specifically aimed at undergraduate students, Undergraduate Research provides opportunities to gain paid professional experience and to contribute to science and communities through the creation and execution of research projects.
There are four different research programs that students can apply to: the Pack Research Experience Program (PREP), Community-Based Research Experience, Nevada Undergraduate Research Award (NURA), and the Honors Undergraduate Research Award (HURA). Research scholarships are paid positions, with students earning $ 12 per hour for their work during the scholarship cycle.
PREP is a research opportunity specifically designed for first year and second year students and prioritizes students from historically underrepresented communities or first generation students. Due to additional funding in 2020 from the Research and Innovation division, the number of faculty mentors involved in this program has doubled, meaning that the research opportunities available to students have also doubled.
The community-based research experience provides students with the opportunity to partner with a local agency or non-profit organization and complete an applied research project that can have a direct impact on the assessment or service capacity of the organization.
NURA is accessible to all students. For this program, students must submit a proposal for funding their academic research, scholarship, or creative activity. HURA works the same way, but is aimed specifically at specialist students.
Undergraduate research director Tanya Kelley said she hopes the availability of these programs will encourage all kinds of undergraduates from all backgrounds and disciplines to get involved in research.
“[These programs] are all really exciting because they all hit a different niche, ”Kelley said. “What we want to do is make sure that we provide valuable research opportunities, regardless of your level of education or your level of experience.”
Kelley also pointed out that support is available for students considering any of these opportunities. She added that there are no limits to how often a student can apply for their undergraduate research programs and funding opportunities are available each semester.
“[Students] should feel very comfortable contacting me and my entire office, ”she said. “Our mentorship can start the first day they become interested in our programs. I am happy to tell them about the options, go over the details … I can really help them find what is best for them.
Catie Polley, a sophomore student at the University of Nevada, Reno with a major in sociology, received the Community Research Award. In partnership with OUR Center, the goal of its research project is to assess the needs of LGBTQ + older people in the region, so that they can be better served in the future.
Although Polley has no research experience outside of her classes, she said the support she received from her mentor, Marta Elliott, professor and current chair of sociology at the University, the made her more confident in her abilities.
“I would say [Elliott] was probably the most valuable resource, ”Polley said. “Me, in this position, being only a second year student and not knowing how to do research and that she has guided me on this path… I have been completely grateful for it over the past few months. . ”
Elliott explained how Polley’s mentorship has also been a positive experience for her.
“Catie’s passion and enthusiasm for this, and her commitment to learning more about older people,” she said. “I have never seen a student be so excited, excited and engaged.”
Erick Herrera, a senior with a major in neuroscience at the University, received the HURA. Through his project, he seeks to find out if acts of kindness can be used to reduce the stress that can accompany the COVID-19 pandemic.
Like Polley, he expressed how much he appreciated the support of his mentor, Cynthia Lancaster, assistant professor of psychology at the University.
“[Lancaster has] been an incredible resource. She’s an expert in her field, and every time we meet I see why she’s an expert, ”Herrera said. “I knew very little about doing a real-world experiment. But actually, going through the process, getting the approval and knowing how to do it, she was an incredible help and guided me.
Lancaster said being a mentor for Herrera was fulfilling not only because of the potential of the project, but also because of the way she saw him grow.
“This is a particularly significant aspect of my work at the University,” she said. “I’m trying to do my part in training the next generation of scientists, and having that kind of potential to be a part of the growth of this next generation … is truly an amazing process.”
The two research students also described the many benefits they gained from carrying out a research project. In general, the students explained how research provides them with a multitude of professional and academic skills that they can use in their future careers.
Since Herrera plans to enter medicine after graduating, he said the skills he learned would be key to his future.
“There is one aspect of the use [research] to complete my degree, but also by preparing myself and preparing much of the critical thinking skills required to be in medicine, ”he said.
For Polley, this research has been a great opportunity for her to gain work experience and determine exactly what she wants to pursue as a career.
“I’m not quite sure what I want to do in the future, but this project is a very important part of this journey in determining what I want to do.”
Another benefit mentioned by Polley and Herrera is the feeling of personal satisfaction. Because their two projects could help improve the community in different ways, they both said continuing their research was even more rewarding.
“What makes me most excited about this research is the potential it has to make a difference in people’s lives,” Herrera said. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be that big difference that cures anxiety or depression in someone’s life, just relieving some of those symptoms of depression or some of the anxiety in someone’s life… it really brings me a lot of joy. “
While some undergraduates may be reluctant to do research at first, Polley pointed out that there are plenty of opportunities for students from different backgrounds and with different ideas to participate.
“Do it, do it, do it,” she said. “The only thing that keeps students from doing this is fear; fear of not being good enough, of not being the right person to do it, of not having the right skills or knowledge to tackle certain topics. But who cares ? I think as long as you’re willing to listen and learn, and keep educating yourself about what you’re doing and what you’re looking for, that’s what matters.
Learn more about undergraduate research