Academics & Research News

Wednesday marks application deadline for new research program

The application deadline for a new research program unveiled this semester is Wednesday.

The Office of Undergraduate Research’s Houston’s Early Research Experience, or HERE, is providing 15 students the opportunity to learn from professionals of various fields during a two-week seminar in May.

This program differentiates itself from previous research programs, like the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, because it directly aims to get rising freshmen and sophomores directly involved in research.

“The purpose of it is to try and expose these early-career students to research methodologies,” Jennifer Asmussen, coordinator of nationally competitive scholarships at the Honors College, said. “(You will learn) how to read journal articles in their field in a critical manner, how to ask the appropriate questions related to the topic of discussion and also to learn more about what’s happening in the field.”

The two-week seminar will take place from May 16 through 27. All students with at least 4 semesters of their undergraduate degree remaining and at least a 3.5 GPA are eligible to apply.

“These are students from all disciplines,” Director of the Office of Undergraduate Research Karen Weber said. “So, scientists will be with engineers, who will be with business students, who are with architects who will be with historians.”

The theme for HERE this year is ‘Let’s Talk Houston.’ Students will discuss all aspects of the city, from history, future trends, environmental, pollution, politics and more, all while learning how to conduct research and understand what research really is.

“A lot of times, undergraduates are overwhelmed by the idea of ‘what is research,’” Weber said. “We hear a lot of students know it’s a good thing for them to do, but it’s still ambiguous. This helps clarify and crystallize the process.”

In these two weeks, students will be attending presentations, placed in small groups to discuss research articles and also doing independent studies that consist of conducting research to culminate into a presentation.

The seminars will be led by three faculty members including Erica Fletcher and Chris Brunt from the Honors College, as well as Mark Hankey of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

In addition to having faculty members speak at the seminars, there will also be professionals from all around the city from different fields of expertise.

Weber said that this is not a class but an opportunity to explore questions that students are interested in. Weber also said allowing students to talk about aspects of Houston that they’re interested in and that having experts from top faculty at UH and guest speakers from the city is a good opportunity for an insider’s perspective.

Every day will bring a different guest speaker.

The program offers a $1,000 scholarship to each of the 15 students enrolled and it also helps students build relationships with professionals.

“To identify a faculty member that’s going to be a good fit for them, that’s going to help them hone the skills that they want to enter the workforce or to enter a graduate program,” Asmussen said.

Both Asmussen and Weber strive for the same result for every student who participates.

“When they leave the program, I hope to see they’re more confident,” Asmussen said. “That they have to ability to access resources to analyze studies, to look at date and know how to break it down to pieces that they can develop into their own questions”

Still, even if a student believes that research is something they would never pursue, students are still encouraged to apply.

“Having that skill-set of learning how to manage data and process and think creatively and differently is going to be beneficial in any degree and any field and job graduate institution,” Asmussen said.

Looking ahead, Weber said she hopes the program grows and becomes more accessible during different parts of the calendar year, whether it’s two days during spring break, a week during winter break once a week during an academic semester.

“We’ll have to see what’s effective about this and what resonates best with students and grow them from there,” Weber said. “ We really think it’s important to have more opportunities in the years to come for students early on in their career. Just getting them engaged in the process.”

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