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Undergraduate Research

Undergraduate Research

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Undergraduate Research

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  1. Undergraduate Research General Education Centre Hong Kong Polytechnic University 13 April 2012 RICHARD MACK, PHd FULBRIGHT PROFESSOR HONG KONG POLYTECHNIC UNIVERSITY

  2. Undergraduate Research • Define UGR • UGR: Importance in U.S. and PolyU • Benefits • Funding • Some Tips for Students • Four Examples of UGR • A Little Interaction

  3. Defining Undergraduate Research: Activities • UGR is not just test tubes and microscopes • Examples of UGR scholarship include scientific, historical, literary, or educational research, as well as creative writing, musical and theatrical performance, or artistic composition. • What else? Creative arts, design, performances, exhibitions engineering projects, business plans

  4. Presentation and Dissemination ofUGR • Journal articles and book chapters • Conference presentations • Poster sessions • Exhibits • Performances • Literary works

  5. U.S. National Importance

  6. Two National Organizations

  7. And from PolyU’s Web pages:

  8. FOUR Models for Undergraduate Research • 1.) The traditional model, in which an undergraduate joins a professor’s ongoing research project • Good option for new faculty (consider your career stage) • Increases speed of which research can be conducted • Brings new perspective to your research • Often increases the probability of funding • 2.) The consultant model, in which an undergraduate conducts a largely independent project with a professor’s guidance • Students gain ownership • Increases student confidence

  9. FOUR Models for Undergraduate Research • 3.) The joint-creation model, in which a student and the professor launch a new project together • May be a steep learning curve • 4.) The student group research model: inter-student mentoring • Students learn interpersonal research skills, often the hard way

  10. Benefits to Students • Retention • Higher probability of entering grad programs • Increased creative abilities • Increased understanding, confidence, awareness, enthusiasm • Students experience inter-person working relationships • Resume-building • Experience active vs. passive learning • Enhance self-directed learning skills

  11. Benefits to Faculty • Creativity • Personal satisfaction • Utilize creativity to modify the learning culture • Publications, presentations • Funding

  12. Benefits to the Institution • Accomplishment of institutional mission • Visibility • Reputation as being both student focused and research focused • Research funding

  13. Searching for Funding • Keywords: • “Undergraduate Research Grants” • “Undergraduate Research Fellowships” • “Undergraduate Research Scholarships”

  14. RESEARCH GRANTS COUNCIL GENERAL RESEARCH FUNDRESEARCH EXPERIENCE FOR UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS • “With a view to providing research experience for undergraduate students, the RGC has put in place the following arrangements: • to set aside a total of HK$2 million annually within the GRF budget for the provision of monthly allowance to undergraduate students to support their participation in GRF research projects; and • to allow Principal Investigators (PIs) to include the provision of a monthly allowance of up to $2,500 to an undergraduate student helper… • In this connection, the institutions have also agreed to provide same amount of allowance to the students as the RGC on a matching basis ….” • Source:

  15. Caltech-Hong Kong Undergraduate Research Fellowships Program • • Information for Caltech Students • Application Process: Caltech will nominate up to three students to participate in the Caltech-HKURF exchange. Preference will be given to those who are not from Hong Kong or students of Hong Kong descent seeking to spend the summer at home. • Students may be matched with a faculty mentor from one of several schools: • Chinese University of Hong Kong • Hong Kong Polytechnic University • Hong Kong University of Science and Technology • University of Hong Kong

  16. Caltech-Hong Kong Undergraduate Research Fellowships Program • Information for Non-Caltech Students • Up to three Hong Kong students will be nominated by the Caltech Alumni Association (Hong Kong Chapter).  Interested students should complete and submit an application, personal statement, three letters and recommendation, and an official transcript by January 2011, to the Caltech-HK Alumni Association. For more information go to or email Roger Ng at

  17. And at HKPolyU ?? • Any programs known for their UGR? • Is UGR common on an individual basis? • Any student UGR conferences? Competitions? • Grants for students? • Rewards for faculty working at UGR?

  18. Getting started as an undergraduate researcher • Step 1: Define your research interests • Step 2: Identify your potential mentors • Step 3: Meet with your list of potential mentors • Step 4: Select a mentor, select a project and start working

  19. Step 1: Define your research interests • Ask the following questions: • Which subject areas most interest you? • Which topics in your classes interest you? • Do you have a specific project in mind or do you want to acquire a set of skills? • You need to be veryexcited about working on a research project. Don’t do it just to build your résumé or earn academic credit.

  20. Step 2: Identify your potential mentors • Ask your faculty adviser, your class instructors and teaching assistants for names of faculty members who are doing scholarly work in your area of interest. • Ask other students in your department about the research projects they work on with mentors. • Browse program, unit and division Web sites and research center Web sites. • Attend departmental and campus seminars to learn about new areas of research. • If a class topic inspires you, discuss your interest with the professor after class.

  21. Step 3: Meet with potential mentors • Make an appointment. Let the faculty members know that you are interested in their research and would like to find out more about the possibility of working with them. • Do your homework. Read all you can about each faculty member and their research program. Read their published articles. Try to understand the basic principles of their scholarly work and the methodologies they use. • Be prepared. When you arrive for your appointment, bring a copy of your transcript and a résumé. Explain your research interests. Explain why you are interested in a research experience and/or in their particular research program. Give the faculty member an idea of the amount of time you are able to commit to your research experience

  22. What questions should I ask the mentor? • What are the areas of your own research? • Do you have a research project that needs an undergraduate student's help? • How did you get involved in this particular area of research? • Why is your particular area of research important? • Where does funding come from for your research? • What does an undergraduate working with you typically do? • What are some projects previous students have worked on? • Are there any particular skills or characteristics you expect an undergraduate to have before beginning a project with you? • What are your expectations of undergraduate researchers? • Are there any specific classes you suggest I take? • Are there any books or research articles you suggest I read? • Do you have suggestions ofother faculty members for me to talk to?

  23. Step 4: Select a mentor, Define a project and start working • In multiple iterations, develop a research contract with the mentor • Agree to a research schedule and a milestone schedule of deliverables • Confirm arrangements for academic credit generation • Confirm financial arrangements • Ascertain what arrangements must be made with the academic bureaucracy and who deals with them

  24. Forthcoming Four Examples • SOURCE: Symposium on University Research and Creative Expression • Funded National Science Foundation Field Research • Capstone Research Course • Federal Reserve Simulation

  25. Example #1: Central Washington University SOURCE • (Symposium on University Research and Creative Expression) • Goals are to:1. Enhance and promote the discovery-, creativity- and inquiry-based scholarship and entrepreneurial talents of students, faculty and staff at CWU;2. Commend the diligence and commitment of mentors from secondary and post-secondary educational institutions and industry; 3. Cultivate the next generation of research mentors and professionals; 4. Enhance local, regional and global engagement by building partnerships between higher education, industry, and government.

  26. SOURCE • There are three standard presentation formats • Oral presentation: Fifteen minute talk with optional visual aid, such as PowerPoint. • Poster presentation: Posters are 3 feet high by 4 feet wide. Authors attend their posters during the entirety of their respective session. • Performance: 15 minutes, plus 3 minutes for audience feedback/questions.

  27. SOURCE Participants 1996-2010

  28. SOURCE 2012 • This year, more than 580 individuals are scheduled to present approximately 150 oral presentations, 138 poster presentations, 18 creative expression presentations, 9 business plans, a single reed musical performance in the evening, and a fashion show. • Forty-four academic and student life programs are participating at SOURCE. • Awards banquet with a Nobel Prize recipient speaker

  29. Presenter Any questions, thoughts, feedback?

  30. Poster presenter

  31. Example #2: National Science Foundationresearch experiences for undergraduates

  32. INTRODUCTION • International collaborative program in social science research on water and resource management in rural northwest China • Provide first hand research experience and research training for undergraduate students • Foster interest in interdisciplinary research • Develop cultural competence and international networking • Advance research and education through international collaboration

  33. Typical China student trip

  34. Research in rural china

  35. PROGRAM OVERVIEW • 6-8 week intensive undergraduate research experience on policy issues involving critical resources in northwestern China • International collaborative program involving 2 Chinese institutions (Shaanxi Normal University and Northwestern University) • Multidisciplinary approach • CWU faculty and students work with Chinese professors and faculty • Program involves 16 U.S. undergraduates and 2 graduate students per year

  36. Four phases • Phase I - Selection of NSF Student Scholars • Phase II - Pre-Departure Experience: Research Preparation and Topic Selection • Phase III – Field Experience: Research Undertaken with Appropriate Revision • Phase - IV Back at CWU: Research Analysis and Writing Component

  37. Phase I - Selection of NSF Student Scholars • Participation is encouraged from academically motivated students in a diversity of fields, especially within the social sciences, environmental studies, and Asia/Pacific area studies. • The group approach is multi-disciplinary, essential for dealing with environmental change and mitigation. • Students entering their junior and senior years are eligible.

  38. Phase II - Pre-Departure Experience: Research Preparation and Topic Selection • Working with CWU faculty/mentors, • Students prepare for their Chinese field experience by means of in-depth exposure to recent economic changes in northwest China and the resulting environmental challenges. • By the end of the period, each student research team completes a preliminary literature review and develops a research proposal. • Additional background lectures on Chinese politics and society, etiquette, social science methodologies, and ethics in science are incorporated.

  39. Phase III - Field Research in Xi’an, Qinghai, & Gansu, China • Participants engage in field research with academics and graduate students from Shaanxi Normal University, Northwest University of China, and Qinghai University for Nationalities. • Initial research takes place in the city of Xi’an, but also includes considerablework in rural villages throughout the provinces. • Campus lectures, on-site visits, interviews, village studies, and other primary research activities in both cities and rural villages are facilitated by local interpreters.

  40. Phase - IV Back at CWU: Research Analysis and Writing Component • Student Scholars are residents in CWU campus housing. • During this period scholars meet regularly with mentors and prepare final research reports. • Student work culminates with an oral presentation, a contractor report, and the first draft of a journal article

  41. Northwest China’s Loess Plateau • Strategic Location of Northwest China • Cradle of Chinese civilization historically; the hinterland of the nation today • Fragile ecosystem • Meeting place of the Gobi Desert and the Yellow River Loess Plateau • One of the most erosive climates in the world • Great Western Development Strategyand its impact since 1999 • Shortage of scholarship on rural China




  45. Topics • Papers for 2009-2010 • Deep ecology in shallow waters: Environmental problems and their societal effects in northwestern ChinaTyler Anderson: Central Washington University, AlinaScalora: The University of Kansas, Alex Schmidt: St. Olaf CollegeMentoring Professor: Dr. Hong Xiao • Redrawing Agricultural-Pastoral Boundaries: The Effects of P.R.C. Water and Agriculture Development Policies in Xunhua CountyYesenia Gallardo, Derek Huls, Marc Janke • China's Wild Wild West: Exploring the Last Economic FrontierJohnPaul Bennett, Samantha Cunningham, Jeremy ReddickMentoring Professor: Dr. Richard Mack

  46. Example #3: Economics capstone research course in eight painful steps • Assemble Student Teams • Solicit Research from Community: Public Sector, Private Sector • Students Interview “Contractee” • Students Develop Proposal • Perform Research over 10 weeks • Write Contractor Report • Make Presentation • Multiple Iterations

  47. Student Outcomes • Enhance proposal writing skills • Enhance research design and execution skills • Enhance creative processes • Enhance presentation and writing skills • Learn joys & pains of group endeavors

  48. Example #4: Federal reserve bank simulation

  49. Example #4: Federal Reserve Bank Simulation • Simulation is “Piggybacked” onto Washington State forecast meetings • Eight universities each formed teams of six students and one mentoring professor • The Federal Reserve Bank emailed files of scenarios and data to each team • Each university team debated policy recommendations for three meetings prior to the simulation • Each team presented its recommendation before a team of Fed judges (Janet Yellen, President of San Francisco FED) • Awards and press coverage