Grants given to increase undergraduate research

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Undergraduate research is receiving more emphasis in the push to become a Top 50 public research university by 2025.

The Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Inquiry presented its inaugural undergraduate research award grants earlier this month to 20 K-State students.

Anita Cortez, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Inquiry, said she feels that undergraduate research is an essential part of reaching the 2025 goal.

“Undergraduate research is important,” Cortez said. “Students get involved earlier in their career. They’re networking with professionals in their field early. They are presenting at national conferences, and many are already published by the time they graduate.”

Jason Ellis, assistant professor in communications and agricultural education, said he believes undergraduate research will help K-State reach its goal of being a top 50 public research university by 2025 by addressing two themes of goal: research and undergraduate education.

“Undergraduate research advances student thinking, student learning and student engagement in the university, all things that attract students to K-State, help keep students at K-State and help students support K-State now and as future alumni,” Ellis said via email.

Cortez said she believes that a student who has conducted undergraduate research has a better chance of getting into graduate school. Furthermore, she said she also believes that students who do undergraduate research will become more passionate about their field because they can have a real impact on their field of study.

Maggie Hulett, junior in animal sciences and industry, received an Undergraduate Research Award grant for her dairy nutrition study. She said she feels that participating in undergraduate research has been important to her college career.

“I think it’s definitely important,” Hulett said. “It opened me up to new experiences. I’ve never done anything like this before, and now I’m considering going to grad school because I’ve liked what I have done so far.”

The Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Inquiry presented two types of awards: the Undergraduate Research Award grant and the Undergraduate Travel Award. The research award was a maximum of $1,000 and was presented to freshmen through seniors from all across the university.

The travel award will reimburse students for the cost of attending and traveling to events associated with their research, such as to present or attend a conference.

First preference was given to students who had not conducted a research project before or who had not been funded before. This was in an effort to bring more undergraduates into research.

“We’re only scratching the surface,” Cortez said. “Most students don’t know what they can do.”

Hulett said she believes the grant program will help bring awareness to what students can do in terms of undergraduate research.

“I think it should increase the interest in research projects,” Hulett said. “If there’s money going towards it than it might motivate more students to go through with research.”

Students interested in undergraduate research should reach out to professors in departments they are interested in conducting a research project in. Hulett met with several different professors in multiple departments before she decided to conduct her research in dairy nutrition with Barry Bradford, associate professor in animal sciences and industry.

The undergraduate research grants are a large part of trying to get more students into research. However, the Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Inquiry is also starting a Research Ambassador program to help make more students aware of the benefits of doing research during their undergraduate.

Cortez said she hopes that the grant program and ambassadors will help make more students aware of the opportunities and benefits of research.

“In 10 years, I see most students knowing about us and coming through the door,” Cortez said. “I see students knowing when they come to K-State that this is a place they come to do undergraduate research. We’ve been doing undergraduate research at K-State for a long time. Hopefully the grants will make it better known.”

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