April 04, 2017
Undergraduate research at UCCS allows students to learn skills they will need in graduate school and to participate in developing and answering questions within their field of study.
The Undergraduate Research Academy (URA) at UCCS pays students to conduct experiments and present findings to other researchers.
Students in the URA partner with a professor in their field, a mentor, and work on a yearlong research project on their topic of choice.
This year, there are 15-20 students researching in different fields through the URA.
The URA is geared mostly toward majors such as biology, chemistry, physics and psychology, but other members are studying in fields like criminal justice and sociology.
Once the undergraduate researchers collect their data, they present their project and findings at one of two events: The Colorado Springs Undergraduate Research Forum (CSURF) in the spring, or Mountain Lion Research Day in the fall.
Trudy Roberts, a psychology major and member of the URA, is using an intervention model to explore the effects of media on teenage boys and masculinity. Roberts will present her work at Mountain Lion Research Day.
“I’m hoping to gain experience; it makes you more competitive for graduate school. Also, to see if this really is the direction I want to go (with my career),” she said.
Adrienne Bohlen, also a senior psychology major and URA member, will present her research on executive function in older adults with Type 2 diabetes at CSURF at the Air Force Academy on April 15.
“I really enjoyed doing similar tests with university students, and then (my mentor) told me I could either work with children or older adults with diabetes. I’m really drawn toward healthcare and working with people to improve their health, so I thought this would be a unique route to take,” Bohlen said.
Accepted project proposals receive a grant of $2,500. This amount is used to pay participants, purchase research equipment and help cover travelling expenses necessary to complete the research. The majority of this grant must go toward paying the student URA member.
Students can still be members of the program even if their project is not funded through the URA.
Bohlen said the academy is a good way to stand out when applying for graduate school. It is also an opportunity to learn research methods and other skills needed in higher levels of education.
“A lot of people don’t do research until they get to (graduate) school, but it’s really nice to get that experience ahead of time,” said Bohlen.
The academy is competitive, and not all students who apply make it in. Student members must be of a junior or senior classification. Applicants are required to have a 3.5 GPA or higher and an identified mentor.
According to Roberts, the program originally funded one or two student research projects per year.
“It paid someone to do research as they went to school, but now they have expanded it, so they can help more students,” said Roberts.
The academy also gives students the opportunity to become closer with a professor in their field of interest.
“I’ve become really close with my mentor,” said Bohlen. “It goes beyond the research in the lab. They help you get other grants, find scholarships, put together a resume and get ready for grad school.”
Students interested in joining the URA must apply for membership. In some cases, professors will approach the student and encourage them to join.
Students who want to get involved with the Undergraduate Research Academy should speak with a professor about research within their majors.