By DANIELLE MILLER
Graduate and doctoral students can expect to spend a large portion of their academic career conducting research. So, why is research important for undergraduate students as well?
Undergraduate Research Conference (URC) Sponsor and Assistant Professor Jamie Smith weighed in on the subject in an email.
“To speak broadly on the importance of research, one could say that without it, new knowledge wouldn’t exist,” he said. “Whether it’s the books you read for classes or the products you use in your day-to-day life, research is at the heart of its production. In the context of the faculty at IU South Bend, research serves that general role of seeking out new knowledge, but it also plays a critical role in the classroom. Faculty engaged in research can inform students of the latest discoveries in their fields. This can make courses more exciting and useful.”
The conference serves to provide an additional learning environment aside from class time.
“What is important here is that sponsors take a proactive role to ensure the existence of an intellectual community on campus beyond the confines of the classroom,” said URC Sponsor and Assistant Professor Anne Magnan-Park in an email. “We value the process of research in its many forms and we want our students to experience it as early as possible within the supportive environment of their alma mater.”
Chances are that if you are an undergraduate, you have written a research paper or will at least once during your time at a university. You may be excited or dread the experience, but you will most likely learn more about your topic of choice.
At the URC at IU South Bend, students may submit articles of research which they conducted as part of classroom assignments or independently in hopes they may receive funding, publication or simply for the joy of sharing what they have learned with other members in academia.
“As a sponsor, I find it very rewarding to see my students participate in this conference, and at times, it becomes the impetus that motivates them to present at a regional or national conference,” Park said. “They form a different relationship with their research or creative project and they often become more confident speakers because they are heard and encouraged by their peers and other faculty members.”
The purpose of research is to learn more about a given topic, build upon what others have learned and contribute to a larger community of those with shared interests. The research conference is an optimal time to present this knowledge at an undergraduate level.
There are benefits that go beyond graduation, according to Christina Gerken, assistant professor and chair of the Student Publications Board.
“I think that undergraduate research is a great opportunity for students to practice the skills they learn in class and apply them to topics they are interested in. Publishing and presenting your research is also a great way to make yourself more competitive for the job market or if you are thinking about applying to grad school,” said Gerken in an email.
Smith agrees that the conference is instrumental in providing additional opportunities for students.
“Research at the undergraduate level allows IUSB students to put all of the skills they acquire in college classes to work,” Smith said. “Our students do outstanding research each semester and more often than not, that work goes underutilized. The Undergraduate Research Conference is an outlet for students to disseminate the knowledge they discover and it prompts great conversations while engaging students, faculty and staff from within the university.”