Research projects

SEAS initiative to broaden access to research projects – The GW Hatchet

An interdisciplinary initiative at the School of Engineering and Applied Science will help undergraduate students obtain research opportunities that match their interests and skill level.

Jason Zara, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies at SEAS, and Ekundayo Shittu, Associate Professor of Engineering Management and Systems Engineering, will develop Research For All – a three-year, $2 million initiative designed to facilitate the process of finding student research projects. They said GW and seven STEM-focused universities like Olin College of Engineering and Valparaiso University will design research training modules and an algorithm that matches students with faculty members.

“GW’s effort is focused on working with SEAS faculty to integrate real research problems into required courses in engineering programs to ensure that all undergraduate SEAS students will be exposed to research from ‘one way or another during their undergraduate studies,” Zara said in an email.

Zara said the initiative consists of three components called URCurious, URSkilled and URConnected. He said each component will improve students’ research skills to cultivate “entrepreneurship” – a way of thinking where students further develop ideas from their previous mistakes in research – in their scientific disciplines.

He said URCurious will introduce more undergraduate students to research with course learning objectives in STEM classrooms while URSkilled will develop training modules for students to learn skills such as formulating research questions and coding.

He said URConnected will create a matching tool for faculty and students that connects them to research opportunities relevant to their skills and interests.

Zara said the Keen Entrepreneurial Engineering Network – a organization of more than 50 universities that collaborate with undergraduate engineering students to integrate scientific research into societal contexts – will distribute the grant among the eight colleges to implement the initiative at each institution.

He said other universities beyond those involved in the initiative could adopt similar ideas of the components of research for all to broaden access and improve the quality of the research experience of first cycle in their institutions.

“In 10 years, we hope that the tools we are developing in this project will be used at many institutions to improve research exposure to more students, better prepare students and faculty mentors to work together, and better associate students with the right opportunities. “, said Zara.

Shittu, co-principal investigator of the initiative, said the three components of Research For All are based on entrepreneurship, which allows students to step out of their comfort zone and lead them to academic discoveries. capable of advancing societal change.

He said the initiative aims to foster a risk-free environment for student curiosity, create tools such as training modules, and expand access to research for non-traditional participants such as underrepresented minorities. and female students.

“I think it’s a great initiative, and I think GW leading this initiative shows that GW is on the right track, in the right direction,” he said. “And in which direction is it?” We take a leadership role in reviewing and investigating what other institutions end up doing.

Jeff Dusek, Olin’s chief researcher for the initiative and assistant professor of mechanical engineering, said Olin and Valparaiso will conduct focus groups and surveys with undergraduate students to observe research projects. of interest as officials develop the matching algorithm tool.

He said they will use training materials, certifications and other skill-building methods to create an online environment that matches students with researchers based on their interests and what is needed in research opportunities. current research.

Dusek said he looked forward to developing some of the training modules to teach students how to develop their research skills and offer mentoring tips and questions to faculty and staff members to enhance the research experience. research of their students.

He said the training modules will help faculty members who have multiple undergraduate students working on various projects to reduce the time needed to train students and produce efficient progress on research projects.

“I’m excited to learn from GW and maybe contribute my experiences to help out there,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of value in these highly integrated teams.”

Dan Maguire, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Valparaiso, said exposure to undergraduate research is crucial because it provides additional perspective to an educational program, as students can test what they have learned in their lessons in real situations.

He said students who don’t have the opportunity to participate in research projects and connect with different faculty members are a “tragedy” because they miss out on experiences that could help prepare them for environments. more demanding such as higher education.

He said the eight schools will aim to create a space where undergraduate research opportunities are accessible to everyone and not just the select few who know or speak directly to faculty members.

“There are so many institutions contributing both smaller ideas and huge conceptual ideas, and they’ve all come together in Research For All,” he said.