August 30, 2022
UT has an impressive research program, providing a large number of research opportunities for undergraduates to work with faculty or graduate students in labs. The college of natural sciences itself Houses the nation’s largest undergraduate university research program, the Freshman Research Initiative. Undergraduate research opportunities provide students with much-needed experience for job search or graduate school applications.
However, many undergraduate research assistants at the University are unpaid, although they work more than 10 hours per week and some labs require a full-year commitment. It’s a big undertaking, leaving students little time for many other things. Also, due to the high time commitment, many students do not have time to take up gainful employment.
Instead of allowing students to take on additional work and stress just for the experience, UT should pay all of its undergraduate research assistants.
Aparajith Kannapiran, a senior biomedical engineer, works in a laboratory dedicated to the development of an injectable bone graft formula. Kannapiran has been working there since the spring semester of his freshman year.
“It would be especially great…if there was an option to get paid,” Kannapiran said. “Getting paid would certainly feel like getting paid for your work, especially in labs where you have to work more than 10 hours a week, which would be really helpful.”
Students who are not paid for their work and time are often forced to choose between gaining lab experience or leaving to find a paid role. Additionally, some labs require certain skills and knowledge, which means that students need to stay in the lab to gain the necessary experience, but risk taking up time that could otherwise be spent in a paid position.
By not offering paid research opportunities to all undergraduate research assistants, UT places students in a difficult position.
Brandon Campitelli, STEM education consultant and teaching assistant professor, leads an app-based program called TEJASwhich funds research opportunities for undergraduate students in the college of natural sciences, notably those from low-income households. Campitelli said many of the students he works with on the program rely on the funding to continue their research.
“If (students) can’t be paid to do research, then they probably can’t do research,” Campitelli said.
In certain research laboratories and specialties, such as biology, the University provides an option for students to earn credit toward their degree or complete elective hours. However, this policy varies from lab to lab and students may not need more elective credits once they have met their requirements.
“My lab has a policy that (in) our first semester of work in the lab, we’re not allowed to get credit because that time is usually spent learning all the material,” Kannapiran said. “We have to work a little more — if you work a few extra hours a week, (you) can get three credit hours.
In order to earn credit, students must spend extra hours in the lab, but undergraduate research assistants shouldn’t be expected to spend so much time in a lab when they’re unpaid. financially.
The University has an enviable research program, but it should give students every opportunity to participate. Students deserve to have paid research opportunities through the University and are not at risk of giving up crucial experience just because they are not being paid.
Abbe is a communications and government junior from Fort Worth, Texas.