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What is undergraduate research?

Research is about passion and exploring the unknown. Research is the systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions.This knowledge can come in many different varieties, such as new facts that were previously unknown, theories about how facts are connected, improving current methods or techniques, or uncovering new questions that have yet to be answered. The research can happen in any discipline: the natural sciences and mathematics, the social sciences, and the humanities and fine arts. Research can happen anywhere – on a cluttered bench in a scientific laboratory and in the dirt of the great outdoors, in the dusty archives of a library and on a computer screen in your home, in our neighboring communities and in lands abroad.

Undergraduate research (UGR) is scholarly study in any discipline in which inquiry, discovery, and creativity culminate advancements in science, technology, the arts or humanities. Any undergraduate chosen by a mentor may participate in UGR. Students from all disciplines – from anthropology, history, design and English to physics, microbiology and business management – can engage in the excitement of scholarly research.

Why should I consider participating in undergraduate research?

Research is an opportunity for you to identify something that interests you and study it in depth. It is up to you to seek out the information you need from textbooks and primary sources. Research involves critical thinking, problem-solving, detailed analysis, and synthesis of ideas. This approach tends to be how learning happens outside of school – not by memorization and regurgitation but by trial, error, and hopefully, success. Immersing yourself in research will teach you how to do the work on your own.

You can make significant contributions to the research effort and scholarly productivity at UNCW. As a result you will establish meaningful relationships with the faculty, enhance your academic experience, develop marketable career skills, and prepare yourself for competitive graduate and professional schools. Indeed, most graduate programs will expect to see some track record of undergraduate research as a requirement for admissions. All fields of industry welcomes students who already have the kind of applicable job experience and training gained through the practice of research.

What are the benefits of undergraduate research?

There are a variety of benefits for undergraduate students who get involved in research. Research experience will allow undergraduate students to gain better understanding published works, learn to balance collaborative and individual work, determine an area of interest, and help jump start their careers. Exposure to UGR leads many students to discover their passion for research and continue on to graduate studies and faculty positions.

A direct benefit of research starts in the classroom. When investigating any phenomenon in class, it is useful to know how the original study was performed. By engaging in UGR, students will find it easier to understand the reasoning behind others' research. Additionally, UGR can provide students with an ongoing source of one-on-one mentorship that is unheard of in the undergraduate curriculum. A less direct benefit, and one that is more difficult to teach in the classroom, the balance between independence and collaboration. Research is often performed in collaborative teams, and one must learn to balance a collaborative effort in the laboratory with work that is capable of be accomplished independently. Interdisciplinary work is difficult to teach in the classroom, and on-the-job experience with teams is a bonus for any workplace environment. The nature of research today is such that interdisciplinary teams are becoming the norm, and gaining firsthand experience in teamwork should be encouraged.

Exposure to an area of research can assist students in exploring potential career fields. The earlier students become involved, the more experience they attain, which enhances their career choice. Some undergraduates who are unsure what to do when they attained their undergraduate degree, will proceed to graduate school with the ill-fated idea that it is the next logical step after undergraduate studies. This will leave them ill-prepared for the strenuous coursework to come. If they have undergraduate experience in research, they are more likely to know if they actually enjoy research. Through UGR, undergraduate students will discover a passion for research they never knew existed.


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